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Primary Care Doctors Account for Nearly Half of Physician Visits but Less Than One-Third of Expenses

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AHRQ News and Numbers

Release date: April 25, 2007

Visits to primary care physicians—general practice, family medicine, internal medicine and pediatric physicians—accounted for nearly half of the 967.3 million doctor visits in the United States during 2004, however, they accounted for only 30 percent of the $152 billion spent for office-based physician care, according to the latest News and Numbers summary from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The remaining 70 percent was spent on specialty care.

AHRQ also found that:

  • The average expense for a physician's office visit was $155. However, the average varies by type of physician. For primary care physicians—general practice, family medicine, internal medicine and pediatric physicians—the average was about $100, which was less than half the $232 average cost of visiting a cardiologist, the $210 average cost of seeing an orthopedist, or the $206 average cost of seeing an ophthalmologist.
  • Private insurance paid for nearly half of office visits to physicians (48 percent), and Medicare paid for just over one-fifth (21 percent). Another 14 percent were paid out of pocket by individuals and families.
  • On average, patients paid one-fifth of total expenses out of pocket when seeing a primary care physician, versus 16 percent for an orthopedist visit, 13 percent for a cardiologist visit, and about 25 percent for visits to dermatologists, psychiatrists, and ophthalmologists.

The data in this AHRQ News and Numbers summary are taken from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), the Nation's most complete survey of how Americans use and pay for health care, including their health insurance coverage. AHRQ, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, works to enhance health care in the United States through the development and promotion of evidence to improve quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness.

For more information on this AHRQ News and Numbers summary, go to Expenses for Office-based Physician Visits by Specialty, 2004, Statistical Brief No. 166 (PDF Help).

For more information, or to speak to the author of the report, contact Nate Robinson at or call (301) 427-1241.

Current as of April 2007


The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


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