New data from the Census Bureau compares the average number of times that Americans of working age — between 18 and 64 years old — visited a doctor’s office over the first decade of the 21st century. According to the data, the number of visits to medical professionals dropped from an average of 4.8 visits in 2001 to just 3.9 visits in 2010. Census officials could not pinpoint the exact reason for the decline, but speculated that it was largely due to growing rates of uninsured Americans.
According to the report, the rate of working-age Americans without health insurance was 21.8 percent in 2010, up from 17 percent in 2001. Brett O’Hara, one of the study’s co-authors, pointed out that low-income Americans without health insurance are much less likely to be able to afford visits to doctors’ offices — just one factor among significant variations between economic and racial groups:
People lacking insurance were far less likely to go to doctors. Just 24 percent of the uninsured went to a doctor at least once in 2010, compared with 72 percent of the general population of working age adults, the report found. […]
The report also showed the sharp difference in medical usage by income. Nearly 40 percent of people in poverty did not visit a doctor in 2010, compared with 19 percent of people from higher income levels.
Hispanics were the least likely to seek medical care, with 42 percent reporting not having visited a doctor at all in 2010. Among whites, the share was 23 percent and among blacks it was 30 percent.
Because the Census Bureau used data from before the Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2010, researchers suspect their study reflects a high rate of uninsurance that President Obama’s health care reform law has since helped stem. A September report from the Census Bureau reported that Obamacare significantly lowered the uninsurance rate between 2010 and 2011 by extending coverage to an additional 1.4 million Americans who could not previously afford coverage. And thanks to the Obamacare provision that allows young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26, the heath reform law led to a record drop in uninsured young adults during that time period.