Study objective: We compare the association between barriers to timely primary care and emergency department (ED) utilization among adults with Medicaid versus private insurance. Methods: We analyzed 230,258 adult participants of the 1999 to 2009 National Health Interview Survey. We evaluated the association between 5 specific barriers to timely primary care (unable to get through on telephone, unable to obtain appointment soon enough, long wait in the physician's office, limited clinic hours, lack of transportation) and ED utilization (≥1 ED visit during the past year) for Medicaid and private insurance beneficiaries. Multivariable logistic regression models adjusted for demographics, socioeconomic status, health conditions, outpatient care utilization, and survey year. Results: Overall, 16.3% of Medicaid and 8.9% of private insurance beneficiaries had greater than or equal to 1 barrier to timely primary care. Conclusion: Compared with individuals with private insurance, Medicaid beneficiaries had higher ED utilization overall (39.6% versus 17.7%), particularly among those with barriers (51.3% versus 24.6% for 1 barrier and 61.2% versus 28.9% for ≥2 barriers). After adjusting for covariates, Medicaid beneficiaries were more likely to have barriers (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 1.41; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.30 to 1.52) and higher ED utilization (adjusted OR 1.48; 95% CI 1.41 to 1.56). ED utilization was even higher among Medicaid beneficiaries with 1 barrier (adjusted OR 1.66; 95% CI 1.44 to 1.92) or greater than or equal to 2 barriers (adjusted OR 2.01; 95% CI 1.72 to 2.35) compared with that for individuals with private insurance and barriers. Compared with individuals with private insurance, Medicaid beneficiaries were affected by more barriers to timely primary care and had higher associated ED utilization. Expansion of Medicaid eligibility alone may not be sufficient to improve health care access.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Emergency Medicine