People in Medically Underserved Areas (%)

People living in a “medically underserved area” reside in an area with reduced access to primary care physicians.1 For some, access is reduced due to residence in a remote location, while for others it is due to the disproportionately low number of primary care physicians in a non-remote area. One in five Americans have inadequate or no access to a primary care physician.2  The lack of accessible health care services is particularly acute for poor and low-income people, who do not have the financial resources to travel to find health care and may not be accepted by physicians due to low reimbursement rates in Medicaid (the health insurance program for low-income people).3

What percentage of people live in “medically underserved areas”?

Although state data regarding the percentage of women who live in underserved areas are not available, the state data for men and women overall are a useful proxy to assess women’s access to primary care.  No benchmark is available for this indicator, so it is ranked, not graded

State State Overall Data State Grade State Rank
Alabama 18.4 41
Alaska 16.7 38
Arizona 16.4 37
Arkansas 10.3 22
California 9.7 19
Colorado 11.7 29
Connecticut 9.0 18
Delaware 13.9 34
District of Columbia 25.3 47
Florida 14.9 36
Georgia 14.4 35
Hawaii 2.8 3
Idaho 16.7 38
Illinois 17.5 40
Indiana 7.1 14
Iowa 11.1 26
Kansas 12.5 30
Kentucky 11.6 28
Louisiana 34.1 51
Maine 5.7 7
Maryland 5.9 9
Massachusetts 6.9 13
Michigan 10.8 25
Minnesota 5.4 6
Mississippi 31.3 50
Missouri 21.8 44
Montana 23.7 46
Nebraska 4.7 5
Nevada 12.6 31
New Hampshire 4.1 4
New Jersey 1.7 1
New Mexico 30.6 49
New York 11.5 27
North Carolina 5.8 8
North Dakota 22.3 45
Ohio 6.0 11
Oklahoma 19.1 43
Oregon 8.6 17
Pennsylvania 5.9 9
Rhode Island 6.3 12
South Carolina 13.0 33
South Dakota 26.5 48
Tennessee 10.4 23
Texas 12.8 32
Utah 10.2 20
Vermont 2.7 2
Virginia 8.2 15
Washington 10.2 20
West Virginia 8.3 16
Wisconsin 10.6 24
Wyoming 19.0 42

Data Source: People in Medically Underserved Areas (%), 2010. 

EXPLANATION:  The term “underserved” was developed by the Division of Shortage Designation within the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Primary Health Care, and indicates a population-to-practitioner ratio of greater than 2,000:1.  The measure applies to both women and men, and assumes that in states where there are fewer practicing primary care physicians, there is reduced access to primary care services.  “Practitioner” or “primary care physician” here means all allopathic (M.D.) or osteopathic (D.O.) practitioners who provide primary care services, and does not focus on their discipline or specialty.  The measure is calculated based on Bureau of Primary Health Care data adjusted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, Population Estimates.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Health Professions, Office of Shortage Designation.  Designated Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA)

Statistics As of June 7, 2010.  Tables 1 and 3.  The national figure includes the 50 states and the District of Columbia.  Population totals are from the U.S. Census Bureau and National Center for Health Statistics, Estimates of the July 1, 2000-July 1, 2009 United States resident population from the Vintage 2009 postcensal series by year, county, age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin (available at  Data have been analyzed by Quality Resource Systems, Inc.


1 Health Resources and Services Administration, “Shortage Designation: Medically Underserved Areas & Populations,” available at
2 National Association of Community Health Centers, Inc., Access Denied: A Look at America’s Medically Disenfranchised (Washington, D.C., March, 2007), 1-3, available at
3 Kevin Sack, “As Medicaid Payments Shrink, Patients are Abandoned,” (New York: The New York Times: Health, March 15, 2010), available at

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