One in 13 U.S. adults report access to specialists to be a "big problem"
Among the 36 percent of U.S. adults aged 18 and older who needed to see a specialist in 2007, about 8 percent reported that getting to see one was a big problem, according to a national survey from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). While the survey did not ask respondents why this was a big problem, research shows that reasons for difficulty accessing specialty care can include lack of health insurance, specialist non-participation in patients' health insurance plans, difficulty contacting specialists, lengthy wait times to get an appointment, and specialist location. AHRQ's study also found that among those with a reported need for specialist care in 2007:
- The proportion of adults who reported difficulty getting specialty care was substantially higher for people who didn't have a usual source of care (e.g., family physician) than for people who did (16 vs. 6 percent).
- Non-elderly adults without insurance were much more likely to report difficulty seeing a specialist (26.5 percent) than non-elderly adults with public coverage (16 percent) or private insurance (6 percent).
- Elderly people with Medicare and supplemental public insurance were much more likely to report access was a big problem (11 percent) than those with Medicare only (5 percent) or with Medicare and supplemental private coverage (2.5 percent).
The data were taken from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), a detailed source of information on the health services used by Americans, the frequency with which they are used, their cost, and how they are paid. For more information, go to MEPS Statistical Brief #274, Perceived Need and Access to Specialty Care among Adults in the U.S. Civilian Non-Institutionalized Population, 2007, at http://meps.ahrq.gov/mepsweb/data_files/publications/st274/stat274.shtml.
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