Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fewer Doctor Visits

An article in the New York Times ("Health Insurers Making Record Profits as Many Postpone Care") notes that Americans are putting off doctor visits and medical tests as out-of-pocket costs mount, reducing expenses for health insurers and boosting their profits.

The latest edition of the government's Bible of health care statistics, Health, United States, 2010, confirms the fact that millions are thinking twice before going to the doctor. The number of physician office visits fell between 2007 and 2008 (the latest data available, and the first year of the Great Recession) from 994 million to 956 million. The number of visits per person fell from 3.32 to 3.15.

Another government survey shows that the out-of-pocket share of expenses for doctor visits among people under age 65 with private health insurance grew from 15.2 to 16.6 percent of the total median cost of a visit between 2007 and 2008. By my calculation, out-of-pocket expenses for the insured under age 65 climbed from $46 to $53 per visit.

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