The speed with which the epidemic has grown across the nation has dramatically changed behavior as governments, businesses and civil society alike take measures to protect public health. Alongside ongoing attempts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, many Americans are still challenged by other types of communicable and noncommunicable diseases, often chronic in nature.
The coronavirus has often forced individuals to make hard decisions about how and when to seek health services.
According to ValuePenguin's latest study, over the course of just one month, many states are witnessing sharp increases in people who say they are delaying seeking medical care due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Overall, 40% of Americans are still delaying medical care.
In some states, more people are returning to hospitals to receive health services; however, this appears to be occurring at a much slower rate than the share of those delaying care, even as states begin to reopen. Comparisons are made from U.S. Census Bureau data collected from late April through the end of May.
1. Mississippi, Maine, Indiana, Louisiana and North Carolina saw the highest increases in rates of Americnas delaying medical services, with an average increase of 9.2% over the month of May.
2. Conversely, residents of Maryland, Delaware, South Dakota, Utah and Washington, D.C., are returning to care at the highest rates, with an average increase of 4.7%.
3. Across all states, the proportion of individuals delaying medical care ranges from approximately 31% in Delaware to 51% in Maine.
Read on to learn how residents of your state are approaching health care decisions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. states with the greatest increases in residents delaying medical care
- Percentage increase in delayed medical care: 11.9%
- Overall percentage delaying health services at the end of May: 44.9%
From late April to late May, Mississippi was the state with the highest increase in percentage of residents indicating that they are delaying medical care specifically because of the coronavirus pandemic. While Mississippi saw the greatest increase in delays over the time period, at almost 12%, it is also the fourth highest in the country for the share of the population saying they are now delaying medical care, at nearly 45%.
Notably, Mississippi's daily new cases have increased steadily over the month of May and started to reach new record highs in early June. According to the Mississippi Department of Health, Hinds County, home to the state capital Jackson, has the highest caseload in the state. Mississippi's safer-at-home order ended June 1st.
- Percentage increase in delayed medical care: 9.8%
- Overall percentage delaying health services at the end of May: 50.9%
Maine saw the second highest increase in percentage of local residents, indicating they are delaying seeking health services during the coronavirus epidemic. At almost 51%, Maine also has the highest overall share of people delaying care compared to any other state in the country.
It’s important to note that Maine has the highest median age of any state in the country — nearly 45 years of age compared to 38 for the country as a whole. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has indicated that eight out of 10 deaths in the U.S. are from individuals over the age of 65.
- Percentage increase in delayed medical care: 8.5%
- Overall percentage delaying health services at the end of May: 42.7%
Indiana saw the third highest increase of people saying they were prolonging seeking medical care due to COVID-19 among all U.S. states. Notably, Indiana jumped from having the fifth lowest overall rate of individuals saying they were delaying seeking medical care in late April at 34.2% to the 11th highest at the end of May at 42.7%.
According to the Indiana Department of Health, more than 38,000 Hoosiers have been infected with the coronavirus to date. Indiana's stay-at-home order expired May 1st.
- Percentage increase in delayed medical care: 8.0%
- Overall percentage delaying health services at the end of May: 46.1%
Louisiana saw the fourth highest increase of individuals delaying medical care in the country with an 8% jump over the month of May. After Maine, Louisiana has the second highest overall share of residents saying they are not seeking medical services they would otherwise get due to the coronavirus, at 46.1%.
Notably, New Orleans was home to one of the earliest local epidemics in the country in 2020, with new infections peaking in early April. The state, however, continues to see hundreds of new daily cases since. Louisiana's stay-at-home order ended May 15.
5. North Carolina
- Percentage increase in delayed medical care: 7.7%
- Overall percentage delaying health services at the end of May: 42.3%
North Carolina saw the fifth highest increase in residents, among all U.S. states, indicating they are delaying seeking health care due to the coronavirus. The state has risen to the 14th spot for overall percentage of individuals prolonging medical procedures after initially being in the bottom 10 states in late April and early May.
The growing share of North Carolinians indicating they are delaying care comes alongside an upward trend for new infections in the state. As of early June, North Carolina had witnessed record daily increases in cases and hospitalizations. North Carolina's stay-at-home order shifted to safer-at-home order on May 22nd.
U.S. states with the largest increases in residents returning to care
- Percentage increase in returning to care: 5.4%
- Overall percentage delaying health services at the end of May: 39.5%
Among all U.S. states, Maryland witnessed the highest increase in percentage of residents returning to care, at 5.4%. Notably, Maryland previously held the top spot in the nation for those delaying medical care in late April and early May, at 44.9%, though this number has since lowered to 39.5%, much closer to the country's average of 39.9%.
While Maryland's peak for daily infections occurred in mid-May, new cases have been trending downwards since. Governor Larry Hogan is commonly cited as one of the most popular governors in America and has seen his approval ratings remain high amid the coronavirus pandemic. Maryland's stay-at-home order ended May 15.
- Percentage increase in returning to care: 5.0%
- Overall percentage delaying health services at the end of May: 30.7%
Delaware saw the second highest increase of local residents indicating they are returning to hospitals and care centers to receive medical services, at 5%. As of the last week of May, Delaware has the lowest percentage of residents of any state in the country indicating they are delaying medical care, at approximately 31%.
Delaware saw its daily cases peak in early May, and new infections appear to be trending downward since. More than 10,000 Delaware residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19 to date. Delaware's stay-at-home order ended May 31st, and the state is a member of a coalition of Northeastern states working together to coordinate a regional response to the novel coronavirus.
3. South Dakota
- Percentage increase in returning to care: 5.0%
- Overall percentage delaying health services at the end of May: 35.6%
South Dakota saw the third highest increase of people receiving medical services amid the ongoing coronavirus epidemic over the month of May. At 35.6%, South Dakotans are among the bottom 10 states indicating they are delaying care due to COVID-19.
While South Dakota's daily infections peaked first in early April and again in early May, new cases trended downward and then remained largely flat since. Early cases were attributed to a large outbreak at a meatpacking facility in South Dakota. Governor Kristi Noem did not issue a stay-at-home order.
- Percentage increase in returning to care: 4.4%
- Overall percentage delaying health services at the end of May: 36.0%
Louisiana saw the fourth largest increase of residents returning to care, at just over 4%. Utah joins South Dakota and Delaware in the bottom 10 states for the overall share of Americans delaying medical care.
Although new infections remained largely flat in Utah until late May, coronavirus cases in Utah started to spike in early June. This latest spike in cases has emerged after the period of survey data collection. Utah did not issue a stay-at-home order.
5. Washington, D.C.
- Percentage increase in returning to care: 3.8%
- Overall percentage delaying health services at the end of May: 38.9%
The District of Columbia saw the fifth highest increase in residents indicating they are returning to health care centers for medical services. Still, the federal district's share of people delaying health services due to COVID-19 is 38.9%, close to the U.S. average of 39.9%.
D.C.'s daily coronavirus infections appear to have peaked in early May and have trended downward since. Mayor Muriel Bowser extended D.C.'s stay-at-home order through June 8th.
Complete ranking of states by percentage increase in residents delaying medical care due to COVID-19
End of May (%)
End of April and early May (%)
To identify the states with the greatest shares of residents delaying medical care in the United States, we analyzed survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau collected between April 23rd and May 26th and compared changes over time between the first and fourth surveys.
Specifically, we analyzed data from the following question: At any time in the last four weeks, did you delay getting medical care because of the coronavirus pandemic? Respondents answered either yes or no.