Background: Migrant workers are a unique phenomenon in the process of China's economic transformation. The household registration system classifies them as temporary residents in cities, putting them in a vulnerable state with an unfair share of urban infrastructure and social public welfare. The amount of pressure inflicted by migrant workers in Beijing, as one of the major migration destinations, is currently at a threshold. This study was designed to assess the factors associated with health-seeking behavior and to explore feasible solutions to the obstacles migrant workers in China faced with when accessing health-care.
Methods: A sample of 2,478 migrant workers in Beijing was chosen by the multi-stage stratified cluster sampling method. A structured questionnaire survey was conducted via face-to-face interviews between investigators and subjects. The multilevel methodology (MLM) was used to demonstrate the independent effects of the explanatory variables on health seeking behavior in migrant workers.
Results: The medical visitation rate of migrant workers within the past two weeks was 4.8%, which only accounted for 36.4% of those who were ill. Nearly one-third of the migrant workers chose self-medication (33.3%) or no measures (30.3%) while ill within the past two weeks. 19.7% of the sick migrants who should have been hospitalized failed to receive medical treatment within the past year. According to self-reported reasons, the high cost of health service was a significant obstacle to health-care access for 40.5% of the migrant workers who became sick. However, 94.0% of the migrant workers didn't have any insurance coverage in Beijing. The multilevel model analysis indicates that health-seeking behavior among migrants is significantly associated with their insurance coverage. Meanwhile, such factors as household monthly income per capita and working hours per day also affect the medical visitation rate of the migrant workers in Beijing.
Conclusion: This study assesses the influence of socio-demographic characteristics on the migrant workers' decision to seek health care services when they fall ill, and it also indicates that the current health service system discourages migrant workers from seeking appropriate care of good quality. Relevant policies of public medical insurance and assistance program should be vigorously implemented for providing affordable health care services to the migrants. Feasible measures need to be taken to reduce the health risks associated with current hygiene practices and equity should be assured in access to health care services among migrant workers.