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Orthopedics. 2013 Oct 1;36(10):e1272-6. doi: 10.3928/01477447-20130920-19.

Effect of health insurance type on access to care.


Growing orthopedic and nonorthopedic literature illustrates the point that having health insurance does not equal having access to care. The goal of this study was to evaluate the burden placed on patients to gain access to outpatient orthopedic care. For this study, burden was quantified as the distance traveled by the patient to be seen in clinic. This study was a retrospective review of all new patient encounters at an adult orthopedic outpatient clinic in an academic tertiary referral center over 1 calendar year. All patients were stratified into 4 categories: commercial/private insurance, Medic-aid, Medicare, and uninsured/private pay. The average distance traveled by each patient to the center was then calculated based on the patient's billing zip code. Patient visits were further stratified based on whether the patients were seen by 1 of 3 different categories of providers: general orthopedics/adult reconstruction, spine, and sports/upper extremity. The study group comprised 774 (31.1%) Medicaid patients, 653 (26.2%) Medicare patients, 917 (36.8%) commercial/private insurance patients, and 146 (5.9%) uninsured/private pay patients. The average 1-way distance traveled was 36.2 miles for Medicaid patients, 21.3 miles for Medicare patients, 24.1 miles for commercial/private insurance patients, and 25.3 miles for uninsured/private pay patients (P<.00). Subgroup analysis noted a statistical difference in distance traveled for the general orthopedics/adult reconstruction and sports/upper extremity groups. The study's findings suggest that having insurance does not equal access to outpatient orthopedic care at a single institution. The specific burdens that each group faces to gain access to care are unclear.

Copyright 2013, SLACK Incorporated.

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