AARP VIVA’s survey reveals that besides money, 43 percent of those who don’t get a physical cite their difficulty understanding English as a reason. And more than a third say that they just don’t need one. “People don’t usually go to the doctor until they’re ill. Prevention costs less,” says Dr. Jessica Guajardo, director of the Cancer Center at Doctors Hospital of Laredo in Texas.
That’s where the new health care law can help. Starting in 2011, all Medicare recipients will receive one free annual physical and other preventive care services like colorectal cancer screenings and mammograms. “There’s no doubt that having access to the checkup will have a direct positive impact in picking up and diagnosing [a disease] at an early stage,” says William Martinez, a physician’s assistant in Los Angeles, whose patients are mostly Latino. “Generally, people react to anything that’s free.”
Take a Loved One to the Doctor, part of AARP’s Create the Good, can also help. The initiative provides tips on coaxing those who avoid physicals into the doctor’s office and providing moral support.