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Am J Public Health. 1995 Mar;85(3):341-4.

Care denied: US residents who are unable to obtain needed medical services.

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Department of Medicine, Cambridge Hospital/Harvard Medical School, MA 02139.



This study analyzed data on US residents reporting that they were unable to obtain needed care. Inadequately immunized children and women inadequately screened for breast or cervical cancer were also examined.


Data from the 1987 National Medical Expenditure Survey was analyzed.


A total of 6,375,000 (90% confidence interval [CI] = 6,039,000, 6,711,000) people could not get hospitalization, prescription medications, medical equipment/supplies, or emergency, pediatric, mental health, or home care. Although the uninsured were more likely to forego care unavailable, three quarters of those unable to obtain services were insured, and 46% (90% CI = 42.4%, 49.6%) had private coverage. Of those reporting the reason why they failed to obtain care, 65.1% (90% CI = 61.7%, 68.6%) listed high costs or lack of insurance, including 60.7% (90% CI = 57.1%, 64.3%) of the privately insured. More than a third of women had not had a breast examination in the previous 2 years, a fifth had not had a Pap smear within the previous 4 years, and half had never had a mammogram (ages 50-69 only). Of children 2 to 5 years old, 35.1% (90% CI = 31.5%, 35.7%) were inadequately immunized. Medicaid recipients had measures of access to care similar to those of the uninsured.


Many US residents--most of whom have insurance--are unable to obtain needed care, usually because of high costs.

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