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Uninsured Less Likely to Get Recommended Care, New Report Claims Posted: May 9th, 2010

By Shannon Lee

Shannon Dauphin is a freelance writer and novelist based near Nashville, Tennessee.

If you have been thinking about gathering health insurance quotes and purchasing a medical insurance policy, there is now even more incentive to get the ball rolling. A new report issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that those without health insurance are far less likely to get recommended care than those who do have a health insurance policy in place.

The 2009 National Healthcare Quality Report, compiled by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, addresses the status of health care in the United States, which improvements are most needed, and how the health care delivered to Americans has changed over time. One of the themes of the 2009 report is the need for better quality care for the uninsured.

Lack of insurance leads to compromised quality of care

The U.S. health care system stresses the importance of preventive care. The availability of quality care varies; for instance, 95 percent of hospice patients were reported to receive the appropriate amounts of pain medication, but only 8 percent of those who sought treatment for alcohol problems got help from a specialized facility.

Those without health insurance face an even tougher road to medical care. While 65 percent of individuals with private insurance were likely to find the treatment they needed, only 50 percent of uninsured Americans found the care they needed.

The uninsured and recommended care

Those who do not have health insurance are much less likely to get recommended preventive care than those who have it. The study pointed out several areas in which this disparity is pronounced:

  • Almost 60 percent of insured children under the age of 18 visited a dentist during the calendar year. Of those children who did not have health insurance, only 27 percent visited a dentist.
  • 61 percent of insured, obese adults between the ages of 18 and 64 received advice on exercise from a doctor, while over 50 percent received advice on healthy eating. However, for uninsured obese adults between the ages of 18 and 64, only about 41 percent received exercise advice, and 32 percent received healthy eating suggestions, a difference of 19 and 18 percent, respectively.
  • Women who had health insurance were much more likely to have a Pap smear and a mammogram than those without medical health coverage. Over 86 percent of insured women had a Pap smear within the last three years, while only 67 percent of uninsured women did the same. The discrepancy between mammograms was even wider, with 72 percent of insured women receiving the test, compared to only 38 percent of uninsured women.
  • When it comes to diabetes, 64 percent of adults aged 40-64 were more likely to have a dilated eye exam during a calendar year, as opposed to 35 percent of those without health insurance. 94 percent of the same insured aged bracket was likely to have their hemoglobin A1c checked, while only about 76 percent of uninsured patients had the test.
  • High-risk adults, ages 18-64, were almost 16 percent more likely to receive an influenza vaccine if they had health insurance

In some cases, the preventive care for the insured and uninsured was about the same. These areas included advice on child safety, the dangers of smoking and passive smoking, pneumococcal vaccinations, treatment for breast cancer, and HIV treatment.

However, the study pointed out that many low-cost or charitable programs exist for those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer or HIV. This access to care for these uninsured patients could account for the quality of care gap closing between those with private health insurance and those without.

Start with health insurance quotes

Though it might seem difficult to afford health insurance, your good health often depends on whether you have health coverage. Shop around for health insurance quotes, narrow your options down to a few reputable companies, and then do a health insurance comparison. Examine the policy offerings and exclusions, deductibles, premiums, and the like.

You might find that cheap medical insurance policies don't cover much, but it might be better than having no insurance coverage at all. In the meantime, take advantage of community screenings, free or low-cost health clinics, and other facilities and services that offer basic preventative medicine and advice.