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Fewer seek medical care regardless of health insurance Posted: October 12th, 2012

By Beth Orenstein

Beth W. Orenstein is a freelance medical writer. She holds a bachelor's degree in English from Tufts University.

Does the doctor's office seem less crowded? Perhaps it's not just your imagination. A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau found that working-age adults are visiting doctors, nurses and other medical providers less often.

According to a Health Status, Health Insurance and Medical Services Utilization study, in 2010, adults ages 18 to 64 sought medical care an average of less than four times a year. That's down from the average of nearly five times they reported seeking medical care a decade earlier.

You're more likely to visit a doctor if you're female, and if you're older, the report found.

Here are other key findings:

  • Seventy-eight percent of women visited the doctor during the year, compared with 67 percent of men.
  • Nearly 40 percent of young adults, ages 18 to 24, did not seek medical care but only 8 percent of those 65 or older stayed away from the doctor's office.

You're also less likely to seek medical care if you're Hispanic, the study found. The report found that 42 percent of Hispanics never visited a doctor or health-care provider during the year.

Health insurance mean more care?

Does having health insurance affect how healthy you are? Not necessarily, the report found.

The same percentage of all people who reported their health as "excellent" and as "poor" had medical insurance -- 85 percent. Slightly fewer -- 80 percent -- who reported their health as "good" said they had health insurance.

However, a greater number of adults under 65 who reported their health as poor (23 percent) did not have health insurance compared to those under 65 who reported their health as excellent (16 percent).

Adults who didn't have health insurance looked for additional sources of medical care: 13 percent visited an emergency room and 10 percent went to the hospital but not the ER while 20 percent sought free medical services and 30 percent received a discount on medical services.

In 2010, those who were in poor health but had no health insurance were more likely to receive routine check-ups. The study found that 21 percent of uninsured adults in poor health had routine check-ups compared with 12 percent of all uninsured adults.

Health insurance coverage age related

The study also showed that the type of coverage you have can affect health status.

More people with excellent health had insurance from private health insurance companies (69 percent) compared with 40 percent of people in poor health.