Objective: To determine the correlation among obstacles to medical care, lack of a regular source of care, and delays in seeking care.
Design: Cross-sectional survey of patients presenting for ambulatory care during a 7-day period. Multiple logistic regression models were used to identify obstacles independently associated with outcome variables.
Setting: Urban public hospital.
Patients: A total of 3897 disadvantaged and predominantly minority patients.
Main outcome measures: Lack of a regular source of medical care and delay in seeking medical care for a new problem.
Results: The majority (61.6%) of patients reported no regular source of care. Of 2341 patients reporting a new medical problem, 48.4% waited more than 2 days before seeking medical care. No health insurance (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 2.2; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.89 to 2.61), no transportation (OR, 1.44; 95% CI, 1.23 to 1.70), exposure to violence (OR, 1.21; 95% CI, 1.08 to 1.45), and living in a supervised setting (OR, 1.50; 95% CI, 1.00 to 2.25) were independent predictors of lack of a regular source of care. No insurance (OR, 1.24; 95% CI, 1.02 to 1.51), no transportation (OR, 1.45; 95% CI, 1.19 to 1.77), and less than a high school education (OR, 1.22; 95% CI, 1.08 to 1.49) were independent predictors of delaying care for a new medical problem.
Conclusions: Obstacles in addition to lack of insurance impede provision of medical care to disadvantaged patients. The adoption of universal health care coverage alone will not guarantee access to appropriate medical care.