Blog & News
Spotlight on Health Behaviors: Adult Who Forgo Needed Medical Care and Adults Who Have No Personal DoctorDecember 21, 2020:
Prior to the arrival of the novel coronavirus, much of American consumer health care concerns surrounded rising costs of care. With health care spending rising a reported 4.6 percent in 2018 and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of the Actuary projecting an average annual increase of 5.4 percent for 2019 to hit a record $3.82 trillion or around $11,559 per person—this issue will remain at the forefront of concern for the foreseeable future.1
Compounding these trends in spending, the continued rise in the share of Americans without health insurance coverage has left more individuals without a means of protecting themselves or their families from the financial burden of illness or injury and without strong ties to health care providers and the health care system to access care.
The effects of rising health care spending and rising rates of uninsurance can be seen in direct measures of actual dollars, such as Medical Out-of-Pocket Spending and Percent of Individuals with High Medical Care Cost Burden, but also in more indirect avenues, such as changes in health behaviors and access to care.
Two measures of such behaviors, Adults Who Forgo Needed Medical Care and Adults with No Personal Doctor, are housed on SHADAC’s State Health Compare and have been recently updated with 2019 data from the Center for Disease Control's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). This blog provides an analysis of these indirect costs of rising health care spending and uninsurance in the year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and examines overall national and state-level trends as well as comparisons across race/ethnicity and educational attainment.
Adults Who Forgo Needed Care
Across the nation, progress was made in reducing the percentage of adults who forgo needed medical care in the years following the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, that progress began to flatten out by 2016 and has now begun to reverse course and display a trend of smaller but significant increases in recent years, such as the growth from 12.9% in 2018 to 13.4% in 2019 at the national level.
Trends by Education and Race/Ethnicity
Examining forgone care by individual breakdowns showed that disparities by education level and race/ethnicity, found in a previous SHADAC analysis, have persisted from the year before.
Across the U.S., adults with less than a high school degree saw their rates of forgone care hit 22.2% in 2019 from 21.1% in 2018;i a figure nearly triple the rate among adults with a bachelor’s degree, who saw their rate of forgone care rise to 7.9% in 2019 (up from 7.4% in 2018).
Nationally, Hispanic/Latino adults experienced the largest increase in rates of forgone care, rising to 21.4% in 2019 from 20.2% in 2018. African-American/Black and Hispanic/Latino adults were also significantly more likely to report going without needed medical care than White adults, with the former being 1.5 times more likely (15.7% vs. 10.9%) and the latter nearly twice as likely (21.4% vs. 10.9%).
At the state level, the trends in forgone care are varied. Despite increasing national trends, some states, such as Florida and Michigan, have continued to make steady progress in reducing forgone care. Florida saw their overall rates drop by 5.9 percentage points,ii from 22.0% in 2011 to 16.0% in 2019, and Michigan saw a similarly steady drop in rates of forgone care from 16.5% in 2011 to 11.7% in 2019.
Unfortunately, progress in reducing the number of adults who report going without needed medical care has stalled in many states—California and Kentucky being two such examples. The former state has seen relatively unchanged rates of forgone care since 2016 (11.4%, 11.8% in 2017, and 11.9% in 2018 and 2019). The percentage of adults who have gone without needed medical care in Kentucky has likewise remained nearly unchanged from 2015 to 2019 (12.3% and 12.1%, respectively).
In other states, such as Kansas and Maine, rates of forgone care have followed the national trend and in 2015 begun reversing course on previous gains. The state of Kansas saw a 2.1 percentage-point increase from 2015 to 2019 (11.0% to 13.1%) and Maine saw a concerning increase of 2.9 percentage points during the same time period (9.4% in 2015 to 12.3% in 2019).
It is important to remember that these increases in forgone care occurred in the context of an economy that was growing steadily before the COVID recession. Though the release of 2020 data is at least another year away, early studies and surveys have given some indications as to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on health behaviors. SHADAC conducted a survey in April 2020 in which over half of U.S. adults (51.1 percent) said they had delayed or canceled health care appointments due to the pandemic.2
Adults With No Personal Doctor
As with the measure of forgone medical care, more adults reported having a usual source of care after the passage of the ACA. However, once again this promising trend reversed itself in 2015, after which the percent of adults with no personal doctor or health care provider has increased each year, nearly reaching its pre-ACA peak in 2019 at 23.4% (23.8% in 2013). Both of these increasing trends have paralleled an increase in the rate of the uninsured across the nation, from 8.6% in 2016 to 9.2% in 2019.3
Trends by Education and Race/Ethnicity
Significant disparities by education level and race/ethnicity were again present for this measure in 2019.
At the national level, adults with less than a high school education were more than twice as likely as adults with a bachelor’s degree to report not having a regular doctor (34.7% versus 16.0%). This pattern was consistent across more than half of states, as adults with less than a high school degree were more than twice as likely to report having no doctor as those with a bachelor’s degree in 26 states, and more than three times as likely in 5 states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Nebraska, and New Hampshire). There was no statistical difference between these educational groups in D.C. and 6 states (Kentucky, Mississippi, North Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont and West Virginia).
Nationally, Hispanic/Latino and Black adults were both significantly more likely to report not having a regular doctor as compared to White adults. Hispanic/Latino adults were more than twice as likely as White adults to report not having a personal doctor (40.5% vs. 18.7%), and African-American/Black adults were more than 1.2 times as likely as White adults to report not having a personal doctor (22.7% vs. 18.7%). Again this pattern persisted among over half of the nation, as Hispanic/Latino adults were more than twice as likely to report not having a regular doctor as White adults in 28 states, and more than three times as likely to report the same in 3 states (Delaware, Maryland, and Nebraska). African-American/Black adults were at least 1.2 times as likely to report not having a regular doctor as White adults in 17 states, and this gap measured 1.5 times or larger in 6 states (Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan and Utah).
Affordability and Access to Care in 2018: Examining Racial and Educational Inequities across the United States (Infographic)
Most U.S. Adults Report Reduced Access to Health Care due to Coronavirus Pandemic
Eleven Updated Measures are Now Available on State Health Compare
1 Hartman, M., Martin, A.B., Benson, J., & Catlin, A. (2019, December 5). National Health Care Spending in 2018: Growth Driven by Accelerations in Medicare and Private Insurance Spending. HealthAffairs, 39(1). https://doi.org/10.1377/hlthaff.2019.01451
Keehan, S.P., Cuckler, G.A., Poisal, J.A., Sisko, A.M., Smith, S.D., Madison, A.J., Rennie, K.E., Fiore, J.A., & Hardesty, J.C. (2020, March 24). National Health Expenditure Projections, 2019–28: Expected Rebound in Prices Drives Rising Spending Growth. HealthAffairs, 39(4). https://doi.org/10.1377/hlthaff.2020.00094
California Health Care Foundation (CHCF). (2019). Health Care Costs 101: Spending Keeps Growing. California Health Care Almanac. https://www.chcf.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/HealthCareCostsAlmanac2019.pdf
2 Planalp, C., Alarcon, G., & Blewett, L.A. (2020). Coronavirus pandemic caused more than 10 million U.S. adults to lose health insurance. https://shadac.org/news/SHADAC_COVID19_AmeriSpeak-Survey
3 State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC). (2020). 2019 ACS: Rising National Uninsured Rate Echoed Across 19 States; Virginia Only State to See Decrease (Infographics). https://www.shadac.org/sites/default/files/ACS_Estimates-2019-Infographic.pdf