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Vital Signs

The Healthcare Business Blog

Uninsured, patients with public coverage have trouble finding doctors

By Steven Ross Johnson

Uninsured adults and those with public health coverage have a harder time finding a primary-care physician who will take them as a patient compared with people who have private insurance, government data shows.

That raises questions about whether the healthcare system is ready to meet the increased demand that will come from the millions of Americans who will receive new private and public coverage under Obamacare.

Figures from the National Center for Health Statistics' 2012 National Health Interview Survey showed that approximately 2.4% of Americans reported having problems finding a physician, with 2.1% being told that a doctor would not accept them as a new patient and 2.9% saying that a doctor would not accept their form of healthcare coverage as payment.

According to the report, nearly 90% of primary-care physicians accept new patients who are covered under a private insurance plan compared with less than 75% of doctors who accept public health coverage.

Uninsured adults between ages 18 and 64 were more likely to experience difficulty in finding a primary-care doctor than those with private forms of insurance, according to the study. Those under age 65 with Medicaid as their only form of health coverage were more likely to have a doctor refuse to see them or not accept their coverage compared with people covered by private plans.

The study found that overall, adults between the ages of 18 and 64 encountered more difficulty finding a doctor than any other age group. That's of particular concern as the Obama administration continues efforts to persuade more young people to enroll in private health plans through the insurance exchanges. The signup of younger, healthier people is viewed by experts as key to determining the success of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Young adults buying insurance need to be able to easily access physician care to make the coverage work.

Follow Steven Ross Johnson on Twitter: @MHSjohnson

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