Does managed care enable more low income persons to identify a usual source of care? Implications for access to care

Med Care. 2001 Jul;39(7):716-26. doi: 10.1097/00005650-200107000-00008.


Background: By requiring or encouraging enrollees to obtain a usual source of care, managed care programs hope to improve access to care without incurring higher costs.

Objectives: (1) To examine the effects of managed care on the likelihood of low-income persons having a usual source of care and a usual physician, and; (2) To examine the association between usual source of care and access.

Research design: Cross-sectional survey of households conducted during 1996 and 1997.

Subjects: A nationally representative sample of 14,271 low-income persons.

Measures: Usual source of care, usual physician, managed care enrollment, managed care penetration.

Results: High managed care penetration in the community is associated with a lower likelihood of having a usual source of care for uninsured persons (54.8% vs. 62.2% in low penetration areas) as well as a lower likelihood of having a usual physician (60% vs. 72.8%). Managed care has only marginal effects on the likelihood of having a usual source of care for privately insured and Medicaid beneficiaries. Having a usual physician substantially reduces unmet medical needs for the insured but less so for the uninsured.

Conclusions: Having a usual physician can be an effective tool in improving access to care for low-income populations, although it is most effective when combined with insurance coverage. However, the effectiveness of managed care in linking more low-income persons to a medical home is uncertain, and may have unintended consequences for uninsured persons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Continuity of Patient Care*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / economics*
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage
  • Male
  • Managed Care Programs*
  • Medically Uninsured
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Poverty*
  • United States