The Impact of Health Policy on Access to Medical Care

This article presents national data on a social-indicator-type measure of access to medical care, prior to and after the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid in the United States. The analyses confirm that the access of the poor, especially those with a regular source of medical care did improve, relative to the non-poor, between 1963 and 1970. Access for middle-class and low-income persons with no usual doctor and the high-income with a regular family physician declined considerably over this period, however. One explanation of these findings proffered is that after Medicare and Medicaid were introduced, providers may have begun to ration the number of visits by the “well-to-do” to accommodate the influx of low-income patients with newly acquired purchasing power and a backlog of unmet need. Many poor with no previously established source of care continued to experience barriers to entry. Much more sophisticated analyses are required to test this and other propositions suggested here, however.

Author(s): Lu Ann Aday

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Volume 54, Issue 2 (pages 215–233)
Published in 1976