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Report: 1 in 10 Adults Delayed Medical Care amid COVID-19 Fears

Pandemic continues to influence health care decisions

August 20, 2021

More than one in ten American adults delayed or missed out on health care during spring 2021 due to concerns about COVID-19, according to a new report from the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Released this week, the research brief indicates that 11 percent of adults younger than 65 reported delaying or going without health care during the past 30 days due to fear of virus exposure. The research analyzes data from the Urban Institute’s April 2021 Health Reform Monitoring Survey.

The health care community will have to work proactively to reach patients who may have delayed care, the report notes.

“To meet these needs and address care gaps, it will be important for providers and health plan staff to actively identify and reach out to patients, especially those with chronic health conditions, who have missed preventive and chronic care,” the report said.

Among the key takeaways from the report:

  • Racial disparities:  Hispanic/Latinx (16.2%) and Black adults (13.3%) delayed or did not get care at higher rates than White adults (8.7%)
  • Income challenges:  Adults with incomes below 250 percent of the federal poverty level (14.9%) were more likely than those with higher incomes (8.2%) to avoid care
  • Chronic care:  Nearly 17 percent of people with two or more chronic conditions reported unmet needs for at least one type of care

The pandemic also has impacted pediatric care. More than 9 percent of respondents reported delaying or forgoing at least one type of care for their children due to COVID-19 exposure concerns within the past 30 days. Containing the pandemic will allow more patients to access routine care and help protect the immunocompromised, the researchers said.

“Missing vital health appointments, especially preventive care and other specialty services, can adversely affect health and other daily activities for both children and adults,” the report notes.

Last year, HAP launched an advocacy campaign about the importance of maintaining routine medical care and the public health measures in place to ensure safe care during the pandemic.

Routine testing, exams, and other preventive health care are critical to help prevent more serious health issues in the future. Additional information about HAP’s campaign is available online.