Primary care physician visits drop among patients with employer plans

The report found that 51% of office visits for employer-sponsored insurance were for PCPs in 2012. Four years later, that percentage dropped to 43%. Every state saw a drop in PCP office visits between 2012 and 2016, ranging from a 6% decrease in Washington, D.C. to a 31% drop in North Dakota.

On the other hand, NP and PA office visits increased in every state — ranging from a 37% increase in New Mexico to a 285% jump in Massachusetts. Overall, office visits to NPs and PAs skyrocketed 129% between 2012 and 2016. Office visits to specialists and other non-physician providers remained similar between 2012 and 2016.

"Many factors likely influenced the trends described in this brief, including state policies, variation in insurance benefit design and changes in access to different types of providers," according to the report.

The report didn't explore how age or demographics may influence the trend. Patients, especially younger ones, often want convenience and don't feel as connected to a specific PCP. Those patients are more likely to get care beyond a usual doctor's office visit.

Care through NAs and PAs might be thought of as a lower-cost solution to PCPs, but HCI found similar costs for office visits. PCP office visit costs were $106 in 2016 and $103 for NPs and PAs. So, while those visits may offer greater care access and more convenience, they might not provide lower-cost care.

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