This study investigates the use of general practitioner services by women in Australia. Although there is a universal health insurance system (Medicare) in Australia, there are variations in access to services and out of pocket costs for services. Survey data from 2350 mid-age (45–50 years) and 2102 older (70–75 years) women participating in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health were linked with Medicare data to provide a range of individual and contextual variables hypothesised to explain general practitioner use. Structural equation modelling showed that physical health was the most powerful explanatory factor of general practitioner use. However, after adjusting for self-reported health, out of pocket cost per consultation was inversely associated with use of services. The out of pocket cost was generally lower for women with low socioeconomic status but cost was also directly related to geographical remoteness. Women living in more remote areas had higher out of pocket costs and poorer access to services. Women who reported better access to care were more likely to be satisfied with their most recent general practice consultation and less likely to be sceptical of the value of medical care. These results show the need for health policies that improve the equitable use of general practitioner services in Australia.
Social Science and Medicine Vol. 53, Issue 12, p. 1641-1651