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Top reasons American seniors avoid going to the doctor

Two in three older Americans haven’t been to the doctor in over a year.

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One in four seniors hate going to the doctor so much, they’d rather go a summer without air conditioning than visit the doctor (27%), according to new research.

A survey of 2,000 people 64 and older looked at their experiences visiting the doctor and found that seniors would also let their spouse make all decisions in the home for a weekend than visit the doctor (35%).

Instead of paying their doctor a visit, other respondents said they’d do the dishes immediately after they eat for a week (34%) or talk to their least favorite relative for an evening (33%). Some would go even further, opting to live on a deserted island for three days (27%).

Conducted by OnePoll and commissioned by ClearMatch™ Medicare, the survey found that while many feel optimistic and calm when visiting the doctor (40%, each), a third admitted they feel anxious (34%) and 31% are afraid – although they wouldn’t admit this to others in their life (64%).

Two in three respondents haven’t been to the doctor in over a year because they don’t like to or because they can’t afford it (28%, each).

Costs play a large role since the lowest copayment the average senior remembers ever paying was around $38, but now each visit costs about $62, with half paying even more than this (49%).

What else makes seniors uncomfortable at the thought of going to the doctor? Many are still squeamish when it comes to bloodwork or vaccines, with more respondents agreeing they’d plan as many as possible on one day to get them over with than space them out to have time in between (50% vs. 33%).

On an emotional level, 41% feel unheard or like their doctor doesn’t care, while 38% are worried about hearing their doctor’s diagnoses/feedback.

Similarly, 35% have difficulty being vocal about their concerns, feeling like their doctor judges them for their eating habits (50%) or weight (48%).

“Finding a doctor you trust can be an uncomfortable and even scary process,” explains ClearMatch Medicare (a part of HealthPlanOne) CEO, Ben Pajak. “When looking for a new Medicare Advantage plan, it’s important to let your agent know you want a plan that includes your current doctors to ensure your care is uninterrupted and provide you with peace of mind.”

Finding the right doctor is top of mind for the three in five who prioritize seeing someone they’re comfortable with, with the average senior needing to visit their doctor six times before they trust them.

Seniors also consider other factors when setting up an appointment, like preparing for what the doctor may find (59%) and the costs that will be associated with the visit (51%).

And seniors aren’t just avoiding their primary care doctor – seven in 10 haven’t been to the dentist in over a year (71%) and 57% have put off seeing a specialist, with cost being a top factor for both.

“No one should put off seeing their doctors, especially mature adults,” says director Lynn Cicchelli. “It’s important to find a Medicare plan that includes your doctors in-network to help keep costs down.”

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 Americans 64+ was commissioned by ClearMatch Medicare between October 12 and November 1, 2022. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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