One in 13 U.S. Adults Who Needed to See a Specialist Reported Access to Be a "Big Problem"
AHRQ News and Numbers, January 20, 2010
Among the 36 percent of U.S. adults age 18 and older who needed to see a specialist in 2007, about 8 percent reported that getting to see one was a big problem, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).
While the national survey did not ask respondents why they said that getting to see a specialist was a big problem, research shows that reasons for difficulty accessing specialty care can include lack of health insurance, specialist nonparticipation in patients' health insurance plans, difficulty contacting specialists; lengthy wait times to get an appointment, and specialist location.
AHRQ's study also found that among those with a reported need for specialist care in 2007:
- The proportion of adults who reported difficulty getting specialty care was substantially higher for people who didn't have a usual source of care (e.g., family physician) than for people who did have a usual source of care (16 percent vs. 6 percent).
- Nonelderly adults without insurance were much more likely to report difficulty seeing a specialist (26.5 percent) than nonelderly adults with public coverage (16 percent) or private insurance (6 percent).
- Elderly people with Medicare and supplemental public insurance were much more likely to report access was a big problem (11 percent) than those with Medicare only (5 percent) or with Medicare and supplemental private coverage (2.5 percent).
AHRQ, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, improves the quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of health care for all Americans. The data in this AHRQ News and Numbers summary are taken from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), a detailed source of information on the health services used by Americans, the frequency with which they are used, the cost of those services, and how they are paid. For more information, go to Variations in Perceived Need and Access to Specialty Care among Adults in the U.S. Civilian Non-Institutionalized Population, 2007.
For other information, or to speak with an AHRQ data expert, please contact Bob Isquith at Bob.Isquith@ahrq.hhs.gov or call (301) 427-1539.