Universal Access to Care Does Not Fully Eliminate Disparities, Study Finds
Universal access to medical care might reduce health disparities between socioeconomic classes, but it is unlikely to eliminate them, according to a study published in the February issue of Health Affairs, MedPage Today reports.
David Alter and colleagues at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto studied health service use, disease progression patterns and survival among 14,900 Canadian residents who participated in the National Population Health Survey in 1996 and 1997.
Researchers evaluated the participants for at least 10 years and seven months.
The study found that individuals with lower incomes were less healthy and more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than those of higher socioeconomic status, according to Alter.
The study also found that individuals with the lowest levels of income and education:
- Used more health care resources;
- Were more likely to have cancer, high blood pressure or diabetes, smoke daily for more years and live inactive lifestyles; and
- Had more visits to primary care physicians.
According to the findings, patients with the highest incomes had only 35% of the risk of dying during the study period as those in the lowest income group. In addition, those in the highest education group had only 26% of the risk of death during the study period, compared with those in the lowest education bracket.
Findings Not 'Dagger' for Universal Care
Researchers noted that if access to care was the primary factor in health disparities, Canada -- which features a universal health care system that is accessible to all residents -- should have fewer disparities. However, the researchers said their findings are "not a dagger in [the heart of] universal health care," but instead likely indicate the shortcomings of preventive care (Smith, MedPage Today, 2/8).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.