Having a primary care provider and access to regular care substantially improves health outcomes. Many individuals struggle to obtain routine but needed care that can prevent the occurrence of more serious health problems.
Half of Hispanics and more than a quarter of African Americans do not have a regular doctor, compared with only one-fifth of white Americans. Low-income Americans are three times less likely to have a usual source of care compared to those with higher incomes, and almost half of low-income Hispanics lack a usual source of care.
Good primary care—particularly enhanced accessibility and continuity—is associated with better self-reported physical and mental health. It can reduce the adverse association of income inequality with physical health, although not with mental health, and is especially beneficial in areas with highest income inequality.
It is essential to promote primary care through proposed measures such as additional payments to primary care practitioners given the projected need for primary care services in the future and the fact that conventional payment systems tend to undervalue primary care services relative to specialty services. The House and Senate bills both provide such incentive payments for primary care. But only the House bill has such provisions for both Medicaid and Medicare.
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