Differences in income-related inequality and horizontal inequity in ambulatory care use between rural and non-rural areas: Using the 1998-2001 U.S. National Health Interview Survey data

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Abstract

Background. To better understand income-related inequalities in health care use, it is imperative to identify sources of inequalities and assess the extent to which health care use is still related to income after differences in need across the income distribution are accounted for. Little is known regarding rural-urban differences in income-related inequalities and subgroup variation in horizontal inequities in health care use. This study decomposes income-related inequalities in ambulatory care use into contributions of need and non-need factors and compares horizontal inequities of subgroups in rural and non-rural areas. Methods. This analysis used non-elderly adult samples from the 1998 to 2001 U.S. National Health Interview Survey data. The area of residence was categorized as rural for non-Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and non-rural for MSA. Concentration indices of ambulatory care use were used to gauge income-related inequalities and decomposed into contributing factors. Horizontal inequities were measured using two methods and the results were compared. Results. Ambulatory care use was disproportionately concentrated in the poor before need adjustment. However, the results of decomposition and horizontal inequity analyses indicate that the pro-poor concentration of health care use was due to greater health care need in low-income groups. Adjusting for need, ambulatory care use was distributed favoring the better-off, to a larger degree in non-rural areas. Health-related variables were the major contributors to income-related inequalities. Non-need factors, including socioeconomic factors, health insurance, and usual source of care, also contributed to income-related inequalities. There were variation in determinants' contributions to income-related inequalities between rural and non-rural populations and subgroup differences in horizontal inequities. Horizontal inequities were greater within non-whites, high school graduates, individuals with private health insurance, and those without a usual source of care with some geographic variation. Conclusions. Our analysis shows that seemingly pro-poor income-related inequalities in ambulatory care use were largely due to greater health care need among low-income groups. The results demonstrate different contributions of determinants to income-related inequalities and variation in horizontal inequities by subgroup and locale. The findings of this study should help identify targets for policy intervention for each rural and non-rural area. © 2010 Shin and Kim; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

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Shin, H., & Kim, J. (2010). Differences in income-related inequality and horizontal inequity in ambulatory care use between rural and non-rural areas: Using the 1998-2001 U.S. National Health Interview Survey data. International Journal for Equity in Health, 9. https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-9276-9-17

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