Background: Previous research shows that patient socioeconomic status (SES) affects health care, but little is known about the relative effects of patient and physician practice SES among privately insured patients.
Objective: To examine the effects of patient and physician practice SES on prevention, disease management, utilization, and cost expenditures.
Design: Cross-sectional analyses of claims data.
Subjects: Primary care physicians (568) and their adult managed care organization patients (437,743) in the Rochester, New York, area.
Measures: Pap smears, mammograms, glycohemoglobins, and eye examinations for diabetics, physician visits, referrals, hospitalizations, costs standardized expenditures (diagnostic testing, office visits, and total), patient zip code-based SES, and physician practice SES (mean SES of patients in practice).
Results: After adjustment, lower SES patients had lower compliance with Pap smears, mammograms, and diabetic eye exams, and were less likely to have a referral or make any office visit, but were more likely to be hospitalized, and generated higher testing standardized expenditures. Lower physician practice SES was associated with lower adjusted Pap, mammogram, and glycohemoglobin compliance, lower office visit standardized expenditures, but higher diagnostic testing and total standardized expenditures. Patient SES effects were stronger for mammography, whereas physician practice SES effects were stronger for diagnostic testing costs. For the utilization indicators, the SES effects on utilization exhibited a linear gradient, whereas there was a threshold effect for costs.
Conclusions: Patient and practice SES are independently associated with care among privately insured patients. These effects are not confined to the poorest patients but span the entire socioeconomic spectrum. Interventions to address these disparities need to be broad-based, but should also address the needs of practices with predominantly lower SES patients.