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MEDICAL SKIMPING ON RISE IN U.S.

Millions of Americans are skimping on medical visits, prescription drugs and diagnostic tests, even if they have health insurance coverage, because they can't afford to pay even part of the cost.

Hard times are expanding a trend that affected many even before real estate and stocks declined - some experts calculate that 1 in 7 families are one major illness away from medical bankruptcy.

A poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation released this week found 47 percent of adults surveyed said someone in their family had skipped pills, or postponed or cut back on needed medical care in the past year because of cost concerns.

Nearly a third reported their family has had problems paying medical bills in the past year, up from about 25 percent two years ago.

Another study, released last month by the Center for Studying Health System Change, found that just under 20 percent of Americans lived in families that had problems paying their medical bills in 2007.

In another study published this week, researchers at the University of Michigan combed through 127 medical papers done in the past decade on emergency department case loads to conclude that, contrary to popular and official belief, uninsured people don't make up a disproportionate share of people in the ER hallways - and they're not to blame for overcrowding and long waits.

If anything, said researchers, it's people who have insurance who are more likely to contribute to ER overcrowding and to go there for minor complaints or in lieu of a visit to a doctor's office.

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