What do Americans want in a primary care provider? An honest practitioner who takes their insurance

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
Carl BialikU.S. Politics Editor and Vice President of Data Science
December 13, 2023, 3:04 PM GMT+0

What do Americans look for in a primary care provider (PCP)? A recent YouGov survey of 2,000 adults posed this question and found that of 25 factors, Americans are most likely to say a potential PCP's honesty is very important when choosing a provider. Whether the provider accepts their insurance plan ranks second. Many also place a high value on a PCP's listening skills, intelligence, and level of experience. Fewer consider factors such as the PCP's race, sexual orientation, religion, politics, gender, or age.

We also considered whether a medical provider's stances on health and political issues may affect patients' willingness to be seen by them. When choosing a provider, most Americans say the person's stance on mental health is very important. Many also place a high value on where they stand on pain management, vaccines, COVID-19, and end-of-life care. Their positions on gun control, LGBT issues, and cannabis are viewed by majorities of Americans as not very or not at all important.

While a potential provider's view on abortion is not a top concern for many Americans, it is for some groups: 69% of women under 45 consider a PCP's stance on abortion to be very or somewhat important, compared to 53% of Americans overall.

Younger adults also have different considerations than older ones. In addition to caring more about a PCP's stance on abortion, adults under 45 are more concerned than older Americans about a provider's views on gun control, LGBT issues, and cannabis. People who are 65 and older are more likely to view as important a provider's positions on end-of-life care and pain management.

For each of the 10 stances included in the poll, the percentage of Americans who consider it very important in choosing a provider is lower than the percentage who consider certain other factors to be very important, including a provider's honesty, acceptance of insurance plans, intelligence, credentials, compassion, and friendliness.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans (73%) say they have a primary care provider whom they would feel comfortable contacting about health issues that may come up. However, younger Americans are far less likely to: Just 54% of adults under 30 say they have a PCP they could reach out to.

Not everyone with a provider knows where the provider stands on health issues: 43% of people with a PCP say they know their provider's stance on vaccines, 38% on COVID-19, 32% on pain management, and 31% on mental health. Fewer than one in five say they know their provider's position on each of the following: alternative medicine, end-of-life care, cannabis, abortion, LGBT issues, and gun control.

There is a gap between the stances Americans with a PCP say would be important to them when choosing a provider and those that they know about their current provider. For instance, 35% of people with a PCP say LGBT issues are very or somewhat important to them when choosing a provider. In that group, only 16% are aware of their current PCP's stance on LGBT issues; 7% of everyone with a PCP is aware of this stance.

It's similar with PCP stances on abortion. While 53% of people with a PCP say a provider's stance on abortion is very or somewhat important to them when choosing a PCP, of this group only 12% say they know their PCP's stance on abortion; that figure is 8% among everyone with a PCP.

See the results for this YouGov poll

Methodology: The poll was conducted among 2,000 U.S. adult citizens on two separate surveys from July 5 - 9, 2023 and July 6 - 9, 2023, with each survey taken by 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 28% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

Image: Getty (SDI Productions)