Survey: Pa. seniors forced to choose between meals and medicine

Credit: Getty Images
Thousands of adults reported either skipping a meal or leaving a prescription unfilled last year. Credit: Getty Images

Pennsylvania’s senior citizens often face tough choices when it comes to paying for their meals and medications, according to figures released Tuesday in the annual Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey, conducted by nonprofit Public Health Management Corporation’s Center for Data Innovation.

The data, which was released in advance of National Senior Citizens Day on Aug. 21, found thousands of older adults in the region last year either skipped a meal or left a prescription unfilled due to budgetary constraints, underscoring the difficult decisions older adults are often forced to make when balancing basic needs.

PHMC officials in a release noted poor nutrition among older adults can aggravate existing medical conditions and disabilities, decrease immune system function and lead to the increased need for yet more medical attention, resulting in a vicious cycle in which those who forego food for prescriptions can actually end up facing even higher health care costs.

Similarly, failing to take medications as prescribed, especially when a patient has a chronic health condition, can increase the risk for negative and potentially lethal health consequences.

Advocates pointed to several barriers to medication adherence among the elderly, among them a lack of education about available benefits to help with food costs, prescription insurance coverage, Social Security income, affordable housing and personal financial skills.

Survey results

10,000 households in Southeastern Pennsylvania were surveyed by the PHMC.

112,500 older adults reported either skipping a meal or leaving a prescription unfilled last year due to budgetary constraints.

20,900 adults reported both cutting a meal and not filling a prescription due to budget limitations.

66.8% of older adults who reported both cutting a meal and not filling a prescription have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.

49.9% of older adults who reported both cutting a meal and not filling a prescription have been diagnosed with diabetes.



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Comments

1

  1. Thank you for highlighting this critical health issue, which affects not only Pennsylvania’s seniors, but also Americans across the country. Seniors, especially those on a fixed incomes, should not be forced to choose between buying groceries or filling their prescriptions.

    Medication nonadherence is a serious issue. Fifty million Americans (age 19-64) didn’t fill a prescription in 2012 due to cost. This number is up 2 million from the previous year. And this number would clearly be much higher if adults 65+ had been included in the study!

    Fortunately, there is an affordable alternative to the exorbitant cost of medicine in the U.S.: prescription drug importation. More than a million Americans each year depend on legitimate Canadian and other international pharmacies to access their needed medications at prices they can afford. Without this option, they would end up skipping doses, splitting pills and compounding their health problems.
     
    RxRights is a national coalition of individuals and organizations dedicated to promoting and protecting American consumer access to sources of safe, affordable prescription drugs. For more information, visit http://www.RxRights.org.