US Physician office visits declined 17% from 2009-2011

Being insured is no guarantee unemployed will seek care

Research suggests they may be unable to cover co-pays and deductibles, or fear they cannot afford the expenses that result.

By Victoria Stagg Elliott, amednews staff. Posted Feb. 7, 2012.

Unemployed people who have private health insurance are less likely to put off care because of cost than those without insurance or on public plans. But they are much more likely than the employed to stay away from the doctor’s office.

“Even if you have insurance, you typically have to pay 20% or more of the price, and when you become unemployed, you become more cautious about spending money,” said Randall Ellis, PhD, professor of economics at Boston University and president of the American Society of Health Economists. “You put off preventive visits, and if you have the flu, you choose not to go in for treatment.”

About 29.3% of the unemployed had private insurance, according to a data brief issued Jan. 24 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics analyzing adults 18-64 who participated in the National Health Interview Survey for 2009-2010 (

Full article is here.

Puzzling fact is that outpatient office visits declined by 17%:

“Outpatient office visits declined 17% among patients with private insurance — from 156 million in the second quarter of 2009 to 129 million in the second quarter of 2011.”


Yet  total private insurance spending on physicians remained almost unchanged.

2009 2010 Change
Total $408.3 billion $415.8 billion 1.8%
Private insurance $209.0 billion $209.4 billion 0.2%

Source: National Health Expenditure Data, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Office of the Actuary, January (

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