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Keywords:

  • Health care quality;
  • children;
  • primary care;
  • access to care;
  • health disparities

Objective. To examine whether and how different kinds of access to care (financial, potential, and realized) predict parent-report child primary care experiences in an urban community sample.

Data Sources/Study Setting. A prospective cohort study was performed. Baseline survey data were collected (67 percent response rate) from 3,406 parents of kindergarten through sixth grade students in a large urban school district in California during the 1999–2000 school year. A 1-year survey (80.4 percent response rate) resulted in a final sample of 2,738.

Study Design. Data were analyzed using multiple regression models with robust estimation. The dependent variable was Time 2 parent reports of primary care experiences, assessed via the Parents' Perceptions of Primary Care (P3C) measure. The independent variables were financial access (insurance status), potential access (presence of a regular source of care), and realized access (foregone care), controlling for child and family characteristics (race/ethnicity, parent's language, mother's education level, and child chronic health condition status) and baseline P3C scores.

Data Collection. Data were collected by mail, telephone, and in person in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Tagalog.

Principal Findings. Controlling for baseline P3C scores and child and family characteristics, having no health insurance at both baseline and Time 2 was associated with a 6.2-point lower Time 2 P3C score, relative to having had health insurance at both time points. Having a regular provider at Time 2 (either always having had one or gaining one during the year) was associated with, on average, a 10-point higher Time 2 P3C score, compared to children without a regular provider (either never having had one or losing one during the year). Episodes of foregone care during the year were associated with 10.7 points lower Time 2 P3C scores, relative to children whose parents did not report foregone care. Similar relationships were found between all three measures of access to care and each of the sub-domain measures of primary care experience.

Conclusions. Financial, potential, and realized access to care are associated prospectively with the full range of primary care experiences—comprehensiveness, communication, coordination, and contextual knowledge—beyond continuity and accessibility. Access to a regular source of care and to needed care are each associated with larger effects on primary care experiences than is the presence of health insurance. Gaining insurance or a regular source of care results in primary care experiences similar to always having had these, while losing a regular source of care has a more immediate effect than losing insurance on primary care experiences.