Insured adults are seeing their primary care physicians less, study finds

Office visits to primary care physicians are declining among adults with employer-sponsored health insurance, according to a study from the Health Care Cost Institute, an independent, nonprofit partially funded by four health insurance companies.

The study examined commercial medical and pharmacy insurance claims data from Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealthcare for 2007-2016, representing more than 50 million people annually.

Four findings:

1. From 2012-16, office visits to primary care physicians for adults younger than 65 with health insurance through their jobs fell 18 percent. But office visits to nurse practitioners and physician assistants climbed 129 percent during that period.

2. The total increase in office visits to nurse practitioners and physician assistants between 2012 and 2016 represented less than half of the total decrease in primary care physician office visits during that period (42 percent).

3. The average cost of a primary care physician office visit (the amount the provider charges) was $106 in 2016, up from $92 in 2012. This is roughly in line with the average cost of an office visit to nurse practitioners and physician assistants, which grew from $93 in 2012 to $103 in 2016.

4. Primary care physician office visits declined across states from 2012-16. Washington, D.C., saw the smallest decline during that period (6 percent), while North Dakota saw the largest decline (31 percent).

Access the full study results here.


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