Access to medical care, dental care, and prescription drugs: the roles of race/ethnicity, health insurance, and income

South Med J. 2010 Jun;103(6):509-16. doi: 10.1097/SMJ.0b013e3181d9c2d8.


Background: After accounting for socioeconomic factors and other demographic characteristics, racial/ethnic disparities in access to care were examined.

Methods: Using nationally representative data on 34,403 individuals from the 2004 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), multiple logistic regression analyses for five outcome measures were conducted: self-reports of being unable to get medical care, dental care, or prescriptions in the past year; and having no doctor or dentist visits in the past year. The main independent variables were race/ethnicity, income, and insurance status.

Results: Blacks and Hispanics were less likely to report difficulties in accessing medical care, dental care, and prescriptions as compared to whites. These disparities occurred primarily among the uninsured and Medicaid insured. More objective measures of utilization (ie, no doctor visit or dental visit during the past year) showed that minorities experienced less access than whites.

Conclusions: Racial/ethnic disparities in access to care persist, and cannot be entirely explained by socioeconomic differences. In addition, the nature of these disparities depends on the socioeconomic position of racial/ethnic groups as well as the access measure used.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ethnic Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Expenditures / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Services Misuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services Research / statistics & numerical data
  • Healthcare Disparities / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Income*
  • Medically Uninsured / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pharmaceutical Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prescription Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • United States


  • Prescription Drugs