Is health insurance all you need to access health care? A study published this month in the New England Journal of Medicine, shows that where you live matters. There is very significant geographic variation in access to care and health care quality, even among those with health insurance.
One explanation is that some insured people may delay needed health services due to high out-of-pocket costs and insurance premiums.
There is also wide local variation in access to primary care, even among the insured. Communities with the poorest access to health care - located in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas, and California - also have the lowest quality care.
Another troubling fact - a high number of uninsured people within a community pulls down the overall quality of health care for both insured and uninsured residents alike.
The Affordable Care Act will increase access to basic services and improve health care quality by strengthening primary care. However the lesson learnt here is that clinicians and other stakeholders still need to leverage these resources locally.
- Ulfat Shaikh