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Aust Fam Physician. 2003 Jan-Feb;32(1-2):85-8, 94.

GP visits by health care card holders. A secondary analysis of data from Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH), a national study of general practice activity in Australia.

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General Practice Statistics and Classification Unit, University of Sydney, New South Wales.



Patients of low socioeconomic status are more likely to hold a commonwealth government health care card. Card holders are recipients of age, disability, unemployment or other low income pensions.


To compare the general practice managed morbidity of health care card holders with noncard holders.


Data from one year of the continuous Australian national survey of general practice activity (comprising 98,000 encounters from 980 general practitioners) were used to compare patient and encounter characteristics and the problems managed for health care card holders and noncard holders. Logistic regression adjusted for patient confounders (age and sex, practice size, comorbidity and measured social factors) to describe morbidity associated with health care card status.


Health care card holders were more likely to have respiratory, circulatory, musculoskeletal, psychological, neurological, endocrine, digestive, urinary and social problems managed. They were more likely to have chronic and psychosocial problems managed and to receive prescriptions. Female card holders were less likely to have a genital check up (including Pap smear).


This analysis supports a relationship between socioeconomic status and health. Those from a low socioeconomic status (health care card holders) experience worse psychosocial health and more chronic health problems, have more medications prescribed and receive less preventive care.

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