Insured U.S. Residents Seeing Physicians Less Often During Recession
U.S. residents with private insurance made 17% fewer physician office visits in the second quarter of 2011 than in the same period in 2009, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, MedPage Today reports.
The analysis attributes the decline to the recent economic recession.
According to the analysis, the number of individuals with private coverage declined during the recession as people lost their jobs and consequently their employer-sponsored health plans. However, the decline in office visits was greater than the decline in individuals with private insurance, which suggests that those who still had insurance made fewer trips to the doctor.
Underutilization of office visits produced lower-than-expected insurance claims and thus an increase in profits for insurers.
Gary Claxton and Larry Levitt, the authors of the analysis, predict that as the economy improves, health care utilization will increase. The analysis detected a slight increase in the use of physician services during the third quarter of this year, but the figure was not statistically significant (Walker, MedPage Today, 11/17).
AHRQ Releases Primary Care Fact Sheets
In related news, U.S. residents made about 956 million visits to physician's offices in 2008 -- 51.3% of which were to primary care physicians, according to a fact sheet from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Modern Healthcare reports.
However, fewer than 33% of U.S. physicians specialize in primary care.
A second fact sheet notes that in 2010 there were 106,073 nurse practitioners and 70,383 physician assistants in the U.S. The Robert Graham Center estimates that about 52% of those nurse practitioners and 43.4% of physician assistants work in primary care (Robeznieks, Modern Healthcare, 11/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.