Uncompensated care by hospitals or public insurance for the poor. Does it make a difference?

New England Journal of Medicine

PubMedID: 3515193

Blendon RJ, Aiken LH, Freeman HE, Kirkman-Liff BL, MURPHY JW. Uncompensated care by hospitals or public insurance for the poor. Does it make a difference?. N Engl J Med. 1986;314(18):1160-3.
Results from two recent surveys of access to medical care, one nationwide and the other in Arizona, were analyzed to determine the consequences of reductions in Medicaid coverage for low-income Americans and the accompanying shift of responsibility for their health care to clinics and hospitals that provide uncompensated or subsidized care. The analysis indicated that in 1982, low-income persons received substantially less care from physicians if they resided in states without Medicaid programs or with only limited programs. In Arizona, the only state at the time without a Medicaid program, poor children saw physicians 40 percent less often, and poor rural residents saw physicians 22 percent less often, than poor residents of states with Medicaid programs; the proportion of poor Arizona residents refused care for financial reasons was almost double that in states with Medicaid programs. In addition, poor residents of states with the highest proportions of their low-income populations covered by Medicaid fared better than those in states with less extensive coverage. Moreover, poor elderly Americans were found to have comparable access to health care, regardless of where they lived, as a result of almost universal coverage under Medicare. Thus, this analysis suggests that the growing reliance on uncompensated care provided by hospitals and clinics may not be an effective substitute for public insurance and may adversely affect the health care received by the poor.