Access to care for rural Medicare beneficiaries

J Rural Health. Winter 2000;16(1):31-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-0361.2000.tb00434.x.


This paper examines variations between urban and rural Medicare beneficiaries in three measures of access to care: self-reported access to care, satisfaction with care received and use of services. The assessment focuses on these measures and their relationship to adjacency to metropolitan areas. Comparisons are also provided for the relative effects of adjacency versus broader access barriers such as income. Data from the 1993 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey are used. The analyses offer several new perspectives on access in rural areas. First, as perceived by respondents, rural residence does not indicate access problems; instead, Medicare beneficiaries in rural counties that are adjacent to urban areas and that have their own city of at least 10,000 people report higher levels of satisfaction and fewer self-reported access problems than do residents of urban counties. These results may stem either from differences in rural residents' expectations regarding access or willingness to accept appropriate substitutions. Preventive vaccination rates in rural areas are on par with or better than rates by beneficiaries in urban areas. The only services where utilization in rural areas was limited relative to urban areas were preventive cancer screening for women and dental care. Development of policies to address these specific service gaps may be warranted. Low income has a more pervasive and problematic relationship to self-reported access, satisfaction and utilization than does rural residence per se.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Disabled Persons / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Medicare / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data
  • Regression Analysis
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*