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Chronically Ill Americans May Skip Meds to Afford Food

Study finds that people with health issues who don't qualify for assistance often must choose either 'treat or eat'

FRIDAY, March 21, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Many chronically ill Americans take less of their medicines than they should or skip them entirely so they can afford to eat, a new study reveals.

Researchers looked at data from nearly 9,700 adults with chronic illness who took part in the U.S. National Health Interview Survey.

About 23 percent of them had trouble affording prescribed medications, nearly 19 percent struggled to put sufficient food on the table and 11 percent had both problems, the study authors said.

Difficulty affording medicine and food was most common among Hispanics and blacks, people with numerous chronic health problems and those without insurance, according to the study published in the current issue of The American Journal of Medicine.

The findings indicate that many chronically ill Americans are having a difficult time and action is required to help them, said lead investigator Dr. Seth Berkowitz of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

He and his colleagues noted that many of the people in the study with incomes 100 to 200 percent above the federal poverty line had trouble affording food and medicine. People in this income range may not be eligible for government assistance. Public officials should consider that when they set eligibility rules for assistance programs, the authors pointed out.

Assistance programs "targeted to under-resourced groups who may face 'treat or eat' choices could produce substantial health gains for these vulnerable patients," Berkowitz concluded in a journal news release.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about chronic illness.

SOURCE: The American Journal of Medicine, news release, March 21, 2014
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