Objectives: This study compared the relative effects on access to health care of relationship with a regular physician and insurance status.
Methods: The subjects were 1952 nonretired, non-Medicare patients aged 18 to 64 years who presented with 1 of 6 chief complaints to 5 academic hospital emergency departments in Boston and Cambridge, Mass, during a 1-month study period in 1995. Access to care was evaluated by 3 measures: delay in seeking care for the current complaint, no physician visit in the previous year, and no emergency department visit in the previous year.
Results: After clinical and socioeconomic characteristics were controlled, lacking a regular physician was a stronger, more consistent predictor than insurance status of delay in seeking care (odds ratio [OR] = 1.6, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.2, 2.1), no physician visit [OR] = 4.5%, 95% CI = 3.3, 6.1), and no emergency department visit (OR = 1.8, 95% CI = 1.4, 2.4). For patients with a regular physician, access was no different between the uninsured and the privately insured. For privately insured patients, those with no regular physician had worse access than those with a regular physician.
Conclusions: Among patients presenting to emergency departments, relationship with a regular physician is a stronger predictor than insurance status of access to care.