Background: One group often identified as having low socioeconomic status, those living in remote or rural areas, are often recognised as bearing an unequal burden of illness in society. This paper aims to examine equity of utilisation of general practitioner services in Australia.
Methods: Using the 2005 National Health Survey undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, a microsimulation model was developed to determine the distribution of GP services that would occur if all Australians had equal utilisation of health services relative to need.
Results: It was estimated that those who are unemployed would experience a 19% increase in GP services. Persons residing in regional areas would receive about 5.7 million additional GP visits per year if they had the same access to care as Australians residing in major cities. This would be a 18% increase. There would be a 20% increase for inner regional residents and a 14% increase for residents of more remote regional areas. Overall there would be a 5% increase in GP visits nationally if those in regional areas had the same access to care as those in major cities.
Conclusion: Parity is an insufficient goal and disadvantaged persons and underserved areas require greater access to health services than the well served metropolitan areas due to their greater poverty and poorer health status. Currently underserved Australians suffer a double disadvantage: poorer health and poorer access to health services.