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African Americans in Commercial HMOs are More Likely to Delay Prescription Drugs and Use the Emergency Room

October 1, 2009

Policy Brief

Authors: Dylan H. Roby, Ph.D., Gina Nicholson, Gerald F. Kominski, PhD

This policy brief uses data from the 2007 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) to examine delays in fulfilling prescribed medication, delays in obtaining needed medical care, visits to emergency rooms and the presence of a usual source of care among insured African Americans in public and commercial HMOs. Specifically, it examines the assertion that individuals enrolled in health maintenance organizations (HMO) should be less likely to rely on emergency room and ambulatory care sensitive hospitalizations given the focus of HMOs on centralized care through use of a primary care provider. However, in this policy brief, researchers found that African-American HMO enrollees in California are more likely to delay obtaining needed medications and use the emergency room than other racial/ethnic groups in comparable HMO plans. The authors recommend a reexamination of use patterns and access barriers among African-American HMO enrollees. This policy brief is supported by a grant from California’s Office of the Patient Advocate.

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