Teens With Health Insurance Absent in the Doctors' Offices

A new study finds that many teenagers 'disappear' from preventive care.

ByABC News
November 8, 2010, 3:31 PM

Nov. 9, 2010— -- Seventeen-year-old Giulia Bertoli is sure to get her checkup every year. And if she were to forget, her mother would be the first to remind her.

While some of her friends say that an annual physical is a waste of time when they're feeling perfectly healthy, Bertoli thinks differently.

"My father died from liver cancer, so my mom always likes to keep a count with regular blood tests and stuff," said Bertoli, a high school senior from New Jersey. "Plus, I like to know how my body is, if it's OK and I'm in good condition."

The teen years are filled with growing pains, with changes in hormones, moods and emotions. With such transformation, many would think that all teens, like Bertoli, fit an annual physical exam into thier regular routine. But a new study from the HealthPartners Research Foundation found that this is not the case for many adolescents.

The research, published in the Annals of Family Medicine, examined data of 300,000 Minnesota teenagers. Study authors found that one-third of those teenagers did not go to even one routine checkup between the ages of 13 and 17. Forty percent of the teens had only gone to the doctor for preventive care once during those four years. And insurance wasn't a factor -- every teenager in the system had insurance that did not require a deductible or co-pay.

"I was surprised that so few kids are in regularly preventive services," said Dr. James Nordin, lead author of the study and a pediatrician with the HealthPartners Health System in Minnesota. "I think this could be because teens think of themselves as invulnerable and many parents consider this a very healthy period in life."

The American Academy of Pediatrics' Bright Futures' and the American Medical Association currently recommend that teenagers get a routine physical exam once a year. But, some past studies have suggested that 13- to 17-year-olds visit the doctor less than any other age group.