Forty-five percent of Americans aged 18–29 and 28 percent of those aged 30–39 do not have a primary care doctor, according to a November survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
By comparison, 18 percent of those aged 50–64 and 12 percent of Americans over the age of 65 do not have a primary care doctor. A 2016 report by the Health Care Cost Institute found office visits to primary care physicians fell by 18 percent between 2012 and 2016, while use of retail health clinics increased.
The Kaiser study polled 1,200 randomly selected adults by phone across the nation and reported a 3 percent margin of error.
Insurance Hurdles to Overcome
Ann Greiner, president and CEO of the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative, says alternatives to primary care, such as the nation’s 2,700-plus retail health care clinics, urgent care centers, and telemedicine are increasing in popularity, especially among younger Americans.
“Millennials rightfully want more flexible ways to get care, and they want more transparency about price and quality,” said Greiner. “Retail clinics are pushing the envelope. Primary care needs to improve in these areas.”
Currently, many primary care doctors do not offer telemedicine and other technology-based approaches because insurance companies do not reimburse them for responding to emails or text messages, Greiner says.
“We need to move away from that kind of payment model toward a more holistic approach,” Greiner said. “That might include sending texts to your doctor or having a consult over email and getting an issue taken care of.”
Cory Compton (thecomptonjr@ gmail.com) writes from Cheboygan, Michigan.
“Kaiser Health Tracking Poll,” Kaiser Family Foundation, July 2018: https://bit.ly/2QIIwKV