Patient charges -- a hindrance to financially and psychosocially disadvantage groups seeking care
This study examines the extent to which people forego seeking primary health care due to the cost and to investigate the associated demographic, physical, psychological and social factors. In 1995, questionnaires were sent to a random sample of the population in two healthcare regions in the Stockholm area in Sweden covering a total of about 400[punctuation space]000 inhabitants. Among the sample of 8200 people over the age of 17Â yr, 69% replied to the questionnaire. About 22% stated that on one or more occasions during the past year they had foregone seeking care due to the cost. About 30% stated that they had foregone or hesitated seeking medical help due to the cost during the past year. This applied to women to a greater extent than men. Not seeking medical care was strongly correlated to a self-assessment of personal finances. Among those who described their financial situation as poor, more than half stated that, on at least one occasion, they had foregone seeking medical care due to the cost. As a consequence, weaker groups in society such as the unemployed, students, foreign nationals and single mothers were overrepresented in this group. Those who had foregone care perceive their health as worse and they had a greater degree of general pains and a higher occurrence of chronic disease/disability compared to those who had not foregone care. Between 1970 and 1995, patient charges for consulting a general practitioner within Stockholm County have increased more than three times faster than the consumer price index. The results suggest that the rapidly increasing patient charges particularly affect the weaker social groups and thus pose a threat to the aim of Swedish healthcare legislation -- that good care should be available to everyone on equal terms.
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Volume (Year): 46 (1998)
Issue (Month): 10 (March)
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