Inequity in long-term care use and unmet need: two sides of the same coin
International studies have shown evidence on inequity in use of health services of different kinds, depending on the type of health care service analysed. However, equity in the access to long-term care (LTC) services has received much less attention. We investigate the determinants of several LTC services and the existence of unmet need by the disabled population using unique data from a survey conducted on the disabled population in Spain in 2008. We further measure the level of horizontal inequity using methods based on the Concentration Index, a widely used indicator of income-related inequality in health. At the time of the analysis, only those respondents with the highest dependency level were covered by the recently introduced universal LTC system, which allows us to explore whether inequities remain for this subgroup of the population. In addition, we compare results using self-reported versus a more objective indicator of unmet needs. Evidence suggests that after controlling for a wide set of need variables, there is not an equitable distribution of use and unmet need of LTC services in Spain, with socioeconomic status being an important factor in access to LTC. We find that individuals at the higher end of the income distribution utilize a relatively larger share of formal services (provided by a professional), while intensive informal care (provided by friends and family) is concentrated among the worst-off. In terms of unmet needs for LTC services, their distribution depends on the service considered as well as on whether we focus on subjective or objective measures. Interestingly, for the population covered by the new universal LTC system, inequities in most LTC services and unmet needs remain statistically significant and even increase for certain services, in particular, formal services provided by professionals.
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