Poll: Half of Americans cut back on health care

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As President Obama and the Minnesota Legislature both look at ways to reform health care, a new poll released by the Kaiser Family Foundation last week found that a majority of Americans are scrimping on health care to make ends meet. Some are skipping dental visits; others are cutting pills in half to stretch out prescriptions. A significant minority of respondents are going broke because they cannot pay their medical bills.

The poll found that 53 percent of American households have cut back on health care in the last year. Thirty-five percent used home remedies instead of seeing a doctor for illness, 34 percent skipped dental care, 27 percent put off medical care they needed, 21 percent skipped filling a prescription and 15 percent cut pills in half.

Thirteen percent said they used up all of their savings in order to pay off medical bills, and 12 percent said they had been contacted by a collection agency about medical bills.

The majority of Americans think major reform should be undertaken in the short term, although they differ based on party identification.

The partisan divide of opinion here also remains large: a substantial majority of Democrats (79 percent) say reform is more important than ever, while most Republicans (58 percent) say the nation cannot afford to tackle health care at this point. Independents tilt the balance by being in favor of shorter term reform, 57 percent to 37 percent who think the bad economy means reform should wait.

The Kaiser Family Foundation provides a comprehensive breakdown of the poll and analysis.

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