Health Insurance Coverage and Adverse Experiences With Physician Availability in the US

Rates of private insurance and public coverage have been increasing. As coverage and utilization increase, a growing concern is the availability of health care providers to meet patient needs. Almost 90% of general physicians accept new patients with private insurance, but less than 75% accept new patients with public coverage (e.g., Medicare, Medicaid), and the proportion of specialists accepting new patients with Medicare or Medicaid is declining. While most studies approach access from a provider perspective, a new report examines the percentage of people who had each of three adverse experiences with physician availability in the past 12 months. Estimates were produced by age group and health insurance status using data from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey.

Key Findings From the Report:

  • In the 12 months prior to interview, 2.4% of people in the U.S. had problems finding a general doctor, 2.1% had been told that a doctor would not accept them as new patients, and 2.9% had been told that a doctor did not accept their health care coverage.
  • People under age 65 who had public coverage only were more likely than those with private insurance to have these three types of adverse experiences with physician availability.
  • Adults aged 18–64 who were uninsured were more likely than privately insured adults to have trouble finding a general doctor or be told that a doctor would not accept them as new patients.
  • Adults aged 65 and over with Medicare only were as likely as those with both Medicare and private insurance to have these experiences with physician availability.
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