Total and out-of-pocket visit expenditures for primary care physician visits may affect how primary care is delivered. We determined trends in these expenditures for visits to US primary care physicians.
Using the 2002-2017 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, we ascertained changes in total and out-of-pocket visit expenditures for primary care visits for Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance. We calculated mean values for each insurer using a generalized linear model and a 2-part model, respectively.
Analyses were based on 750,837 primary care visits during 2002-2017. Over time, the proportion of primary care visits associated with private insurance or no insurance decreased, while Medicare- or Medicaid-associated visits increased. The proportion of visits with $0 out-of-pocket expenditure increased, primarily from an increase in $0 private insurance visits. Total expenditure per visit increased for private insurance and Medicare visits, but did not notably change for Medicaid visits. Out-of-pocket expenditures rose primarily from increases in private insurance visits with higher expenditures of this type. Medicare and Medicaid had minimal change in out-of-pocket expenditure per visit.
Between 2002 and 2017, mean total expenditures and out-of-pocket expenditures increased for primary care visits, but at notably lower rates than those previously documented for emergency department visits. A rise in total expenditure per visit was identified for private insurance and Medicare, but not for Medicaid. Out-of-pocket expenditures increased marginally related to changes in out-of-pocket expenditures for private insurance visits. We would expect increasing difficulty with primary care physician access, particularly for Medicaid patients, if the current trends continue.

© 2020 Annals of Family Medicine, Inc.