Dartmouth study says primary care not always a cure-all

A new study by Dartmouth Health Atlas researchers contends that making primary care more widely accessible — one of the goals of the health overhaul — won’t necessarily improve the nation’s health, Reuters reports. The researchers found wide variations in the quality of care that do not always match up with the level of access to physicians.

One Dartmouth researcher said, “Our findings suggest that the nation’s primary care deficit won’t be solved by simply increasing access to primary care, either by boosting the number of primary care physicians in an area or by ensuring that most patients have better insurance coverage.” Those are two central tenets of the health overhaul.

Despite a dearth of primary care doctors in Wilmington, N.C., and a relative plethora in White Plains, N.Y., “87.4% of Wilmington Medicare recipients had at least one annual primary-care visit during 2003-07, compared to fewer than 70% of White Plains’ beneficiaries,” the report found.

“Those stats underlie one of the report’s major conclusions: ‘There is no simple relationship between the supply of physicians and access to primary care.'” Furthermore, the researchers said just seeing the doctor isn’t necessarily helpful: In some cases, those who saw doctors still didn’t receive recommended care.

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