Uninsured Much Less Likely to Get Imaging Services, Report Reveals

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In its fourth annual survey of United States and international health care consumers, released this week, the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions found that among its U.S. survey respondents 47% of those with health insurance had an imaging exam or test in the last 12 months. Among those without health insurance, it was only 20 percent.

This finding may be due to the uninsured postponing recommended preventive care and waiting to see a doctor when sick. The authors of the 2011 Survey of Health Care Consumers in the United States also found that one in four health care consumers said they decided not to see a doctor when sick or injured, and one in five delayed or skipped treatment recommended by a doctor.

Both of of these rates were higher than in previous years and cost was increasingly what motivated people to skip or delay treatment. The report also found that the uninsured are twice as likely as the insured to postpone care when they are sick or injured (40% vs. 23%).

imageThese findings are likely no surprise to health care executives, but they raise interesting questions about what may happen to the demand for diagnostic imaging services, such as certain cancer screening tests, as more of those currently without insurance acquire it under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.

When Massachusetts enacted universal health care coverage, there was a surge in demand for primary care and preventive medicine. According to the Massachusetts Medical Society's annual Physician Workforce Study, in 2010, the state experienced a shortage of primary care physicians for the fifth year in a row and half of primary care doctors in the state stopped accepting new patients.

The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions is the health services research arm of United Kingdom-based Deloitte LLP. Click here to download the PDF of the 2011 Survey of Health Care Consumers in the United States.