Despite insurance, people skip doctor visits due to cost

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Capital News Service
LANSING — More Michiganders have health insurance but still skip doctor visits and blame it on cost.
In 2015, nearly 13 percent of Michiganders said they hadn’t been to the doctor in the past 12 months because of the cost, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, which conducts the Michigan Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System every year.
That’s too many, said  Robert Jackson, president of the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians.
“The whole thing is disturbing,” he said, because more visits to a primary care physician lead to lower costs and better health in the long run.
Most e people who skip doctor visits because of cost have no health insurance (30 percent) or are on the Healthy Michigan plan (27.9 percent), according to statistics provided by Jennifer Eisner, a public information officer at the department. The year 2015 was the first time the survey included questions about Healthy Michigan, a state health plan for low-income residents.
Even though Healthy Michigan patients have low copays, Jackson said they may have difficulty getting to a doctor because they lack access to transportation.
Healthy Michigan enrollees don’t have to pay copays for preventative care, “but it is still confusing for those newly enrolled learning to navigate their new health insurance,” Eisner said in an email.
The percentage of Michiganders who say they haven’t been to a doctor in the past 12 months because of cost has dropped since 2011. That is the earliest comparable year because of changes in the way the survey is conducted, Eisner said.
In 2011, 16.5 percent said they hadn’t been to a doctor because of cost. In 2015, it was 12.7 percent.
People are seeking more health care because of Healthy Michigan, said Tom Kochheiser, director of member services at the Michigan Primary Care Association, which represents all 260 of Michigan’s federally qualified health centers.
The centers are in medically underserved areas, offer comprehensive primary care and can’t turn anyone away, Kochheiser said. Sliding scales determine costs.
The number of people visiting the health centers is up 5 percent in the past year, Kochheiser said.

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