WASHINGTON – A quarter of U.S. women say they’re skipping doctor visits and delaying or skipping on buying prescribed drugs because they can’t afford them.

Women are also passing on preventive care such as osteoporosis tests, according to a survey released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health-advocacy group. Even women who go to their doctors often aren’t talking about lifestyle concerns such as smoking, exercise, reproductive health and sexually transmitted diseases, the study found.

Twenty-seven percent of women under the Medicare age of 65 told Kaiser that they’d skipped or delayed care that they thought they needed in the prior year. Among uninsured women, the figure soared to two-thirds. One-fifth of all women said they hadn’t bought at least one prescribed drug because they felt they couldn’t afford it.

The findings are based on a representative sample of 2,766 women nationwide.

The numbers track an earlier Kaiser study in 2001 in which 25 percent of women under Medicare age and 59 percent of uninsured women said they’d delayed or skipped care because of the cost.

Amy Niles, president of the National Women’s Health Resource Center, blamed cost – and lack of time – for women skimping on their health care. Her group sponsored a similar study last year.

In the latest Kaiser study, only 55 percent of women said they’d talked to their doctor about a lumped-together category called “diet, exercise and nutrition” in the past three years. Less than a third of all women of reproductive age said they’d talked with a doctor about their sexual history, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS.

According to researcher Susan Sered, who did interviews for the study, one of the most frequent conversations women reported having with doctors was about paying for care.

“Money was actually replacing things like lifestyle in discussions with doctors,” she said.

Paula Johnson, director of the Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology in Boston, which participated in the study, said preventive care is suffering. The study found that only 38 percent of women age 50 and older said they’d had a colon cancer test in the prior two years and only 37 percent said they’d had an osteoporosis test.

“Women are not really being worked with by their health care providers around these prevention issues,” Johnson said.

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