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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Primary Care Visits Available to Most Uninsured, But at a High Price, Johns Hopkins-Led Study Finds

Uninsured people do not have any more difficulty getting appointments with primary care doctors than those with insurance, but they get them at prices that are likely unaffordable to a typical uninsured person, according to new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health-led research.

And payment options are not very flexible, with only one in five people told they could be seen without paying the whole cost up front, suggests the new study published in the May issue of the journal Health Affairs.

“There’s a discouragement factor for uninsured people when it comes to seeing a doctor when they are sick,” says study leader Dr. Brendan Saloner, an assistant professor in the department of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “If you pick up the phone and the cost is high, you may stop looking – even if you are really sick. For a lot of people, it’s bewildering to navigate the primary care market without health insurance.”

Dr. Saloner’s research is based on data from a 10-state telephone survey in which callers posed as patients from November 2012 to March 2013 to find out whether they could get a new patient appointment with a primary care doctor and, if so, how much a basic visit would cost. Callers only revealed their uninsured status after being offered an appointment. The audit, which included 1,613 completed calls, was conducted before the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in late 2013, which not only has given more patients private insurance but also has increased the number of people with Medicaid in many states.

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