The effect of differential eligibility for free GP services on GP utilisation in Ireland
Internationally, there is extensive empirical evidence that a strong primary care-led health system is associated with improved health outcomes, increased quality of care, decreased health inequalities and lower overall health-care costs. Within primary care, factors influencing access to, and utilisation of, general practitioner (GP) services have been widely examined and this paper focuses on the role of user financial incentives. In particular, user charges for health care have been observed to deter health-care utilisation. Relative to other countries, the Irish health-care system is unusual in that the majority of the population are required to pay out-of-pocket for GP care. However, in 2005 the Irish government extended eligibility for free GP care to a further small subset of the population. Using micro-data from a nationally representative survey of the population in 2007, this paper analyses the impact of differential coverage of free GP services on GP utilisation in Ireland. Results from multivariate regression analysis indicate that GP utilisation is significantly more likely in the context of free GP care, controlling for a range of demographic, socio-economic and health factors. Interpretation of the results for the new category of coverage is complicated by possible pent-up demand and selection effects.
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Volume (Year): 74 (2012)
Issue (Month): 10 ()
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