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Visits to Specialists Under Medicare: Socioeconomic Advantage and Access to Care


This study examines the relationship between socioeconomic advantage and the likelihood of receiving specialty care in a nationally representative sample of older Americans participating in fee-for-service Medicare. In 1992, 62.9 percent of Americans aged 65 and older visited a specialist physician at least once. Being white, having more education, and having a higher income were each independently associated with a higher likelihood of visiting a specialist. Having insurance to supplement basic Medicare coverage was also independently associated with an increased likelihood of visiting a specialist; disadvantaged elders are less likely to have such supplemental insurance. Therefore, based both upon socioeconomic disadvantage and a lack of insurance to supplement the basic Medicare benefit, black, less educated and low-income elders are less likely to receive specialty services under fee-for-service Medicare. As the program evolves, it will be important to continue to monitor access to specialty care in vulnerable, socioeconomically disadvantaged populations.

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