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Study Details Health Care Access In Pennyslvania

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Many dread visiting the doctor, but in Pennsylvania, that isn't because of a lack of access.

Susquehanna Polling and Research conducted a study on behalf of the Pennsylvania Medical Society to find out how many Pennsylvania residents are in close proximity to primary care providers. 

They found that 85 percent travel 15 minutes or less to their doctor, and 52 percent traveled less than five minutes. This is good news for Scott Shapiro, cardiologist and president-elect of the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

“One of the stumbling blocks that occurs across the country is when someone doesn’t have access to a primary care physician," he said. "Because that’s ultimately the first stop that someone has for both their sick and their well visits."

A closer look at the survey shows a more complex relationship between patients and care providers, he said.

Researchers asked residents if they recently delayed some type of care, such as a test or a doctor’s appointment, due to out-of-pocket costs or deductibles. Thirty-nine percent of rural residents said they did, compared to 25 percent of urban and suburban dwellers.

Shapiro credited some of these choices on poor or lesser quality insurance.

“If in a rural area there was a higher percentage of people on certain insurance products that have less of a monthly cost, but in exchange, require the patient to cover more of the cost when they actually utilize their care, that often times explains why a patient may have higher expenses for the exact same coverage.”

The survey asked if respondents saw out-of-pocket costs and deductibles go up since last year; 47 percent of urban residents and 63 percent of rural residents said yes.

“Unfortunately, there seems to be a trend for insurance to be increasing for premiums across the state. And for some people I see as patients, they’re realizing that while their premiums went up, ultimately the number of dollars being covered for them appears to be going down in some areas,” Shapiro said.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 19.2 percent of the U.S. population lives in rural America while 11.4 percent of physicians are located in rural locations.