Low Income Suburban Residents Perceive a Greater Lack of Specialty But not Primary Care Physicians than Those with Higher Incomes
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As the number of low income residents in suburban areas increases, they may present new healthcare delivery challenges. We compared residents’ perceptions of access to primary care (PCP) and specialty (SCP) physicians by income categories in two adjacent counties of New York, which differ in physician density and public healthcare delivery models. Telephone interviews of 812 residents of Nassau (NC, 6.9 physicians/1000) and Suffolk (SC, 3.5 physicians/1000) counties were conducted, assessing perceptions of whether there were “too few,” or “about the right number” of PCPs and SCPs. Counties were compared using bivariate analysis; multivariate analyses examined the association of perceptions of PCP and SCP access with demographic variables, including income. Twice as many SC respondents perceived too few SCPs compared to NC (35.31 vs. 18.27%, p = .001) and 50% more perceived too few PCPs (32.56 vs. 23.85%, p = .06). Thus, physician access was a perceived problem for many in SC despite a supply greater than the national average. For both counties combined, those with household incomes less than $35,000/year were twice as likely to perceive too few SCPs (p = .05), while in SC, this group was more than three times as likely to perceive too few SCPs (p = .02). There were no significant associations between income and perception of PCP availability. Thus, both counties have eliminated income-related differences in perceived access to PCPs. However, this is not the case for SCPs, especially in SC, which, unlike NC, has no publically supported specialty care. As the number of low income suburban residents increases, access to specialty care presents an important challenge for some areas.
KeywordsSuburban poor Primary care Specialty care Physician workforce
The authors thank the Stony Brook Office of Survey Research which constructed, administered and funded the survey which forms the basis of this study.
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Conflict of interest
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
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