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1 in 5 Skip Medical Care, Study Says

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, August 9, 2010

One in five Americans did not seek medical care for a recent illness or injury, with four out of 10 citing cost as the primary factor, according to a Deloitte Center for Health Solutions online survey of more than 4,000 adults.

The survey also showed a declining number of consumers reporting to have visited a physician or healthcare professional in the past year; 79% of respondents sought medical attention in 2010 as compared with 85% who did so in 2009.

"As the burden of care continues to be shifted to the individual, and more Americans lose their jobs and their health insurance, we expect this trend will continue," said Paul Keckley, executive director, Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. "It will be interesting to see what happens in 2014 when the individual mandates requiring Americans to purchase health insurance kick in. Will we see a significant spike in visits to the doctor as more Americans join the ranks of the insured?"

The survey of 4,008 adults, conducted between Dec. 28, 2009, and Jan. 5, 2010, also detailed alternative options that healthcare consumers are exploring, and found that: 

  • 15% of consumers reported visiting a retail clinic and 34% said they would do so if it cost 50% or less than the cost of a doctor's appointment.
  • More consumers are seeking alternative or natural remedies before seeing a physician (17% chose this option in 2010 compared with 12% in 2009).
  • More consumers are supplementing their current regimes with alternative remedies (20% pursue this route in 2010 compared to 16% in 2009).
  • Consumers are also receptive to medical tourism, but only 7% sought healthcare services outside their local community in the last 12 months.

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