Medicare Beneficiaries, Privately Insured Older People Face Health Care Access Issues, Study Finds
Both Medicare beneficiaries and people ages 50 to 64 who are privately insured are facing barriers in accessing health care, according to a new Center for Studying Health System Change study issued on Thursday. The study found that the "extent and type" of access issues facing both Medicare beneficiaries and privately insured people between the ages of 50 and 64 "varies across communities" and could stem from differences in demand for services, private insurance changes, the "number and type" of available doctors and other local market conditions. The report notes that delays in seeing specialists were a "particular problem" for patients covered by Medicare or private insurance -- approximately half of each group waited up to three weeks for a regular checkup with a specialist, while up to 75% in both groups waited a week or more to see a specialist when sick. HSC President Paul Ginsburg said, "Americans of all ages are having more trouble seeing a doctor -- reduced access to physician services is not just a Medicare problem; it's a system-wide problem" (HSC release, 9/5). To conduct the study, researchers used the HSC Community Tracking Study Physician and Household Surveys, conducted in 1996-97, 1998-99 and 2000-01. The physician survey queries approximately 12,500 nonfederal primary care doctors who spend at least 20 hours a week on direct patient care, and the household survey of about 60,000 people focuses on a civilian, "non-institutionalized population" (HSC issue brief, September 2002).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.