Usual sources of health care and barriers to care, 1996

Stat Bull Metrop Insur Co. 1998 Jan-Mar;79(1):11-7.


This paper provides a brief overview of two major indicators of access to health care in America in 1996. The first is usual sources of health care (including reasons why Americans change their usual source of care); and the second, barriers families encounter in accessing needed care based upon measures from the 1996 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). Almost 18 percent of the population did not have a usual source of health care in 1996. Groups most likely to lack a usual source of health care included uninsured persons under age 65, all young adults ages 18-24, Hispanics and males. Americans living in the West and South were more likely to lack a usual source of health care than those in the Northeast and Midwest. The main reasons reported for lacking a usual source of care included the following: seldom or never getting sick, having recently moved or not knowing where to go, and the cost of medical care. Hispanics, uninsured persons under age 65 and persons living in the West were more likely to report cost as the main reason for lacking a usual source of care. Nearly 12 percent of American families had at least one member who changed his or her usual source of health care provider within the previous 12 months. Many switched because of problems of availability, insurance-related reasons or dissatisfaction with quality of care. Approximately 12.8 million families (11.6 percent of all families) encountered difficulty or delay in obtaining care or did not receive the health care services they needed. Families living in the Northeast, particularly within metropolitan statistical areas, were the least likely to encounter problems obtaining needed health care and families living in the West were the most likely to experience problems.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Data Collection
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Health Services / economics
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Services Accessibility* / economics
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health / economics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Residence Characteristics
  • United States