Inequity in publicly funded physician care: what is the role of private prescription drug insurance?

Health Econ. 2009 Oct;18(10):1218-32. doi: 10.1002/hec.1428.


This study examines the impact that private financing of prescription drugs in Canada has on equity in the utilization of publicly financed physician services. The complementary nature of prescription drugs and physician service use alongside the reliance on private finance for drugs may induce an income gradient in the use of physicians. We use established econometric methods based on concentration curves to measure equity in physician utilization and its contributors in the province of Ontario. We find that individuals with prescription drug insurance make more physician visits than do those without insurance, and the effect on utilization is stronger for the likelihood of a visit than the conditional number of visits, and stronger for individuals with at least one chronic condition than those with no conditions. Results of the equity analyses reveal that the most important contributors to the pro-rich inequity in physician utilization are income and private prescription drug insurance, while public insurance, which covers older people and those on social assistance, has a pro-poor effect. These findings highlight that inequity in access to and use of publicly funded services may arise from the interaction with privately financed health services that are complements to the use of public services.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Financing, Government*
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Pharmaceutical Services*
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • National Health Programs / economics
  • Ontario
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / economics
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data*
  • Private Sector*
  • Young Adult


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations