One In Five DC Residents Does Not Have Regular Access To Health Care

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One in fiveWashington, D.C., residents does not have a regularsource of health care, and increasing rates of hospital visits suggest thataccess to doctors and community clinics is declining in the district, accordingto a report presented to the D.C. Council on Wednesday, the Washington Post reports.

The study, which was conducted by RAND and commissioned by the council in2006, found that less than 10% of district residents are uninsured. However,district residents with preventable or treatable conditions routinely seek careat hospitals. Nicole Lurie, a senior scientist at RAND,said the rates of people seeking care at hospitals are "startlinglyhigh" and have gotten worse since 2004. According to the report, at least40% of young children and adults on Medicaid visit a hospital emergencydepartment at least once annually. The report found that the proportion isgreater among adults with chronic conditions. Fewer than 20% of districtresidents with heart disease see a cardiologist annually, but more than 70%visit the ED at least once annually.

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RAND in the report wrote, "There appearsto be considerable room for improvement in quality of care." The reportsuggests incentives to encourage physicians to serve in communities with thegreatest needs and to persuade patients to "use care appropriately."In addition, the report said there are large gaps in data needed to improveservices and found that 80% of district residents have not visited a dentist infive years or longer (Levine, WashingtonPost, 1/31).

In related news, council member David Catania (I) this year will propose auniversal care program intended to act as a "bridge" to healthinsurance to those who do not qualify for Medicaid but do not have access toemployer-based care, the WashingtonTimesreports. The program, known as Healthy D.C., would be partially subsidized by the government andwould include an income-based premium (Emerling, WashingtonTimes, 1/31).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health PolicyReport is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.

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