Uninsured adults did not seek medical care from a doctor as often in 2010 as they did in 2007, results of a new analysis show. Hospital and emergency room also declined, but not significantly. Why?
Medical use and bills among the uninsured
The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, which released the report, suggested a few possible explanations for the drop in demand (PDF) for medical care among the uninsured after the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
More uninsured adults last year were healthier. Significantly more uninsured reported their health as excellent, very good or good in 2010 and 2007. Those who reported chronic conditions declined somewhat.
Of the nation's 46.1 million uninsured adults, 33.2% reported one or two chronic conditions last year and 6.8% reported three or more chronic ailments. That's compared with 34.2% with one or two and 9% with at least three chronic diseases in 2007, when 35.7 million adults were uninsured.
It's unlikely, the data suggest, that the nation made great strides reducing diabetes and other chronic ailments during the brief period. Rather, as the Kaiser Commission report theorized, more healthy people could have joined the ranks of the uninsured as the economy shed jobs.
The report considered another reason for the drop in use: cost. High unemployment and smaller household income “could lead the uninsured to be less likely to seek care, knowing they cannot afford the cost or have reduced access to credit,” the report said.
In 2010, far more uninsured adults reported spending nothing on medical care during the past year, 36.4%, compared with 29.6% in 2007. (And among those that did spend for medical care, they were no more likely to successfully negotiate a discount in 2010 than 2007.)
However, the analysis found 31.2% last year reported problems paying medical bills, a decline from 35.3% in 2007.
You can follow Melanie Evans on Twitter: @MHmevans.
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