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Ethn Dis. 2000 Autumn;10(3):418-31.

Changes in US health care access in the 90s: race and income differences from the CARDIA Study. Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults.

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University of Alabama at Birmingham, 35205-4785, USA.



Health care financing is changing rapidly in the United States. We investigated whether and how health care access is changing concurrently with changes in financing, with special attention to a minority population.


We examined a longitudinal biracial (half African-American, half White) urban cohort of 3,565 individuals, aged 25-37 years old, in 1992-93 and again in 1995-96. We measured access by self-reported (1) health insurance status, (2) regular source of medical care, and (3) lack of care due to financial problems.


In 1992-93, 30.3% of the cohort experienced at least one access barrier, with a decline to 26.8% in 1995-96 (P<.005). However, access improved more for Whites than for African Americans; and access improved for higher, but not for lower, income groups (7% improvement for high income, vs 2% deterioration for lower income, P<.01). In addition, there was an 11% to 19% absolute increase in individuals making co-payments for health care utilization across all race/sex groups, with African Americans having markedly higher proportions of cost-sharing. African-American, low income, and unemployed individuals reported more acute care, but fewer outpatient visits. Income and employment explained racial differences.


While access has improved or stabilized for higher income groups, there is a widening gap according to income, accompanied by an acute care pattern for low income groups that may be both inadequate and cost inefficient.

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