Problems With Access to Specialty Care for Uninsured U.S. Residents Examined
The Chicago Tribune on Sunday examined problems with access to specialty care for the uninsured. Although community health centers nationwide provide basic medical care for the uninsured, specialty care "is scarce for people without health insurance," the Tribune reports. According to the Tribune, several factors are "fueling a growing sense of crisis surrounding specialty care for the uninsured."
The uninsured require specialty care more than the general population because they have more chronic illnesses and often do not receive routine medical care. In addition, public hospitals, which provide most medical care for the uninsured, face "intense financial pressure as governments cut back support," according to the Tribune. Some physicians require uninsured patients to make upfront, cash payments for specialty care that they cannot afford, and the United States also has a shortage of specialists, such as orthopedists and radiologists. As a result, uninsured patients with conditions such as diabetes, arthritis or Parkinson's disease "don't get regular consultations with the doctors who know best how to treat their conditions," the Tribune reports.
"People get sicker, they die earlier or they end up with disabling conditions that can create problems throughout the remainder of their lives," Diane Rowland, executive director of the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, said. The Bush administration has made the expansion of community health centers a "priority," but the federal government has not "devoted funding to expanding specialty care; neither have most local and state governments," the Tribune reports (Graham, Chicago Tribune, 5/15).