Policy Center One-Pager

The Importance of Having a Usual Source of Health Care



FREE PREVIEW Log in or buy this issue to read the full article. AAFP members and paid subscribers get free access to all articles. Subscribe now.


FREE PREVIEW Subscribe or buy this issue. AAFP members and paid subscribers get free access to all articles.

Am Fam Physician. 2000 Aug 1;62(3):477.

Most people (82 percent) in the United States have and use for much of their health care a usual source of care, and a majority of them name a particular primary care physician as that source. Regardless of self-reported health status, people benefit from having a usual source of health care even if they are uninsured.

The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) is a national probability survey sponsored since 1996 by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ; formerly the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research). As part of this survey, trained interviewers determine whether or not each individual in respondents' families has a usual source of health care. If so, the source is determined and characterized, and other data can be analyzed accordingly.

In 1996, 82 percent of Americans had a usual source for receiving health care. These individuals would go to this usual source for new health problems (97 percent) and preventive care (96 percent), and to seek referral for sub-specialty services (96 percent). Approximately 56 percent regarded an individual professional, rather than a facility, as their usual source of care. Of these providers, 62 percent identified a family physician, 16 percent a general internist and 15 percent a pediatrician, leaving all other provider types as the usual source of care for 8 percent.

Although there were virtually no differences in self-reported physical and mental health status comparing individuals with and without a usual source of care, profiles of use differed (see accompanying table).

Profiles of Utilization

Have usual source (%) No usual source (%)

Difficulty obtaining care

11

17

Went without needed services

6

12

Doctor's office visit

75

39

Admitted to hospital

8

4

Purchased any prescription medicine

70

38

Profiles of Utilization

View Table

Profiles of Utilization

Have usual source (%) No usual source (%)

Difficulty obtaining care

11

17

Went without needed services

6

12

Doctor's office visit

75

39

Admitted to hospital

8

4

Purchased any prescription medicine

70

38

Results from this survey also indicate that 17 percent of Americans were uninsured. Among the uninsured, a surprisingly high proportion (62 percent) could identify a usual source of health care. For 71 percent, a family physician was the usual source.

Inferences from MEPS data to the U.S. population, when weighted for survey design complexities, can be made with substantial confidence. For example, the estimate of 17 percent of Americans without insurance has a standard error of 0.47 percent.



Copyright © 2000 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact afpserv@aafp.org for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions


Article Tools

  • Print page
  • Share this page
  • AFP CME Quiz

Information From Industry

More in AFP

More in Pubmed

Navigate this Article