The findings in the study Jama Pediatrics Showed that there has been more 14% decline in pediatrician visits over a 9-year period. Kristan Ray, MD, MS, and his colleagues collected data from 2008 through 2016 of children aged 17 years or younger. These children were covered by large national commercial health insurance. It was observed that pediatric primary care decreased by 14.4% whereas preventive care visits increased by 9.9%. This change took place during the time when the Affordable Care Act eliminated copays for these types of visits. 

The main reasons for the decline in pediatrician visits were the increasing costs of families and increasing visits to other sites. There was also a 24.1% decrease in problem-based visits. On the other hand, psychiatric and behavioral health visits increased by 42%. Ray explained in a news release, “This means that children and their families are visiting their pediatrician less throughout the year, presumably resulting in fewer opportunities for the pediatrician to connect with families on preventive care and healthy behaviors, like vaccinations and good nutrition.” 

One of the main reasons for this decline was that children were receiving treatments elsewhere. So visits to EDs, urgent care, retail-based clinics, and telemedicine consults increased by more than 30% during the study period. Another main reason was the increase in out-of-pocket costs, which increased by 42%, according to the study.

The following several reasons that are causing decline in pediatrician visits are presented in the study:

  • The increasing cost of copays resists the parents for visiting a doctor, especially when their child is well. Often parents who are on a tight budget will put off well-visits, thinking that there is no need to see their child’s health care provider.
  • With so many “experts” and health websites telling families what is normal, what’s not and — most importantly — what to do, families less often are asking the real expert their questions.
  • More families have two working parents (or a single parent juggling more than one job), leaving little time to schedule a well visit.