The effect of income on doctor visits
Allard, Mary Dorinda
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Some health care experts suggest that people should receive health care based on "need" rather than on their ability to pay. Previous research has found that people with lower incomes use health facilities less than people with higher incomes when health status and age are taken into account and also that this tendency is lessening over time. This study supports the conclusion that income is still an important factor in determining whether people visit a doctor, which indicates that the income effect is stronger than the effect of higher opportunity cost of time. Researchers trying to determine whether medical care is distributed equitably have not looked at the type of doctor seen by the patient; the type of doctor is important because the quality of care matters and specialists can provide higher quality care than general practitioners. In order to determine whether health care is distributed by "need" or by ability to pay, it is necessary to make adjustments for the quality of care.