Preventive care: do we practice what we preach?

Am J Public Health. 1987 Jul;77(7):801-4. doi: 10.2105/ajph.77.7.801.


We used insurance claims from enrollees in the Rand Health Insurance Experiment to determine the amount of selected components of preventive care received by a representative sample of the non-aged population in the United States and to determine whether insurance coverage was an important determinant of that amount. Only 45 percent of infants received timely immunization for DPT and polio; 93 per cent received some well child care by 18 months of age. In the three-year experimental period, only 4 per cent of adults had a tetanus shot, 66 per cent of women aged 17-44 and 57 per cent aged 45-65 received a Pap smear, and 2 per cent of women aged 45-65 had a mammogram. Cost sharing was associated with even less preventive care: 60 per cent of children on the free plan and 49 per cent on cost sharing plans received preventive care of any type. For adults, women on the free plan received more preventive care of several kinds, and those aged 45-65 received more Pap smears than those on cost-sharing plans. Even with free care, most enrollees did not receive adequate preventive care. Thus, free care alone, while significant, is not a sufficient incentive to providing recommended levels of preventive care. The average per person insurance charge for increasing the amount of preventive care to a level consistent with that recommended would be $22 for a complete set of immunizations by age 18 months, $9 for a Pap smear every three years, and $97 for a Pap test and mammogram every three years.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cost Control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunization / economics
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Insurance, Health*
  • Male
  • Mammography / economics
  • Middle Aged
  • Papanicolaou Test
  • Primary Prevention / economics*
  • Primary Prevention / standards
  • Primary Prevention / statistics & numerical data
  • Sigmoidoscopy / economics
  • United States
  • Vaginal Smears / economics