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3 Costly Health Mistakes

When money's tight, we make financial trade-offs. Some are perfectly healthy: giving up a gym membership for free runs in the park, or cooking at home more instead of eating out.

But when it comes to your health, some money-saving measures can be downright dangerous. A Consumer Reports poll found that almost half of Americans (48%) who currently take a prescription drug say they're cutting back on health-care spending -- putting off a doctor's visit or medical procedure, declining tests, or ordering cheaper drugs from outside of the U.S. That's 9% more than the number who were cutting back last year.

Meanwhile, 28% admit to taking more extreme measures to save money. Check out this startling list:

  • 16% said they skipped a prescription refill
  • 13% said they took an expired medication
  • 12% said they skipped a scheduled dosage without doctor or pharmacist approval.
It's not exactly a long-term savings strategy. After all, skimping on proper health care today can lead to more serious and costly health problems down the road.

Doctors are partly to blame, according to CR. For example, not all physicians regularly prescribe generic drugs, which can be a major cost-saver. In fact, 41% of patients surveyed said their doctors only sometimes -- or never -- recommend a generic.
And a majority of patients agreed that pharmaceutical companies have too much influence on the drugs that doctors prescribe.

The lesson here is: Always be proactive and ask your doctor for generic substitutes. According to CR, "generics use the same active ingredient as brand-name drugs, are regulated in the same manner, and must prove their 'bioequivalence,' which means they release the same amount of the drug at the same rate as their brand-name counterpart." If your doc won't help, tap your local pharmacist for advice -- he or she is likely just as knowledgeable about drug costs and their ingredients.
Begin your Rx search at big-box retailers and grocery chains like Target, Wal-mart, Kroger, as well as other big pharmacy chains. Many offer a host of generic drugs for $4 for a 30-day supply or $10 for a 90-day supply. (Some restrictions apply.)

CR suggests checking with your local independent pharmacies, too, since they may be willing to match those super-low prices to stay competitive.

Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance journalist and commentator. She is the author of the new book Psych Yourself Rich, Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life. Follow her at and on Twitter/farnoosh.
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