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One-quarter of Mecklenburg County residents have no primary care doctor, report says

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Roughly one-quarter of Mecklenburg County residents did not have a primary health care provider in 2021, according to a reportreleased this week by the county health department.

Of the 23% of county residents who reported not having a primary care provider, per the report, roughly half were between the ages of 18 and 29. Forty-five percent were Hispanic, while 21% were Black and 18% were white. They were also more likely to be men, lower-income and uninsured. Sixty-three percent of those who reported having no primary care provider had no health insurance, according to the report.

As of 2020, approximately 105,060 county residents between the ages of 19-64 — or about 15% — did not have access to health insurance, according to the American Community Survey. In Mecklenburg County, people without insurance, along with people on Medicare or Medicaid, use the emergency room at four times the rate as people with insurance, according to the report. According to the county, if more residents had access to primary care, it could help them stay out of the hospital and better manage chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes.

“Regular access to primary care can help individuals and families manage chronic conditions, decreasing the need for visits to the emergency department and subsequent hospitalizations,” the county report said.

It added that delaying care, visiting the ER, or being hospitalized can translate into more costly and complicated care for patients, often with worse outcomes.

Mecklenburg County has an estimated 1,051 primary care providers, according to the report — one provider for every 1,054 residents, more than the recommended ratio of one per every 1,500 by the Healthy North Carolina 2030 project.

“This suggests the challenge may not be with the overall supply of primary care providers, but rather with the supply of primary care providers who specifically serve under and uninsured residents,” the report said.

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Claire Donnelly is WFAE's health reporter. She previously worked at NPR member station KGOU in Oklahoma and also interned at WBEZ in Chicago and WAMU in Washington, D.C. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and attended college at the University of Virginia, where she majored in Comparative Literature and Spanish. Claire is originally from Richmond, Virginia. Reach her at cdonnelly@wfae.org or on Twitter @donnellyclairee.