Low and Higher Wage Workers Report No Differences in Four Barriers to Primary Care Access

Matthew R. Augustine, Karin M. Nelson, Edwin S. Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Lower wage workers, known to seek more care in the emergency department (ED), may encounter more barriers to timely outpatient primary care. This study aimed to identify differences in self-reported delays in care related to 4 modifiable barriers (phone availability, appointment wait time, in-clinic wait time, and limited service hours) across self-reported wage and to examine the relationship between these care delays and self-reported ED use. The authors examined data from the 2011-2015 National Health Interview Surveys for 58,298 self-identified full-time workers. Multivariable logistic models with geographical region and year fixed effects were used to test the association of wage group and barriers to care. In addition, the multiplicative and additive interaction effects upon self-reported ED use were tested. No association was observed between wage level and barrier to timely care. Lower wage workers (<$25,000 vs. >$75,000/yr.; OR 1.53, 95% CI 1.20-1.94, P = 0.001) and those reporting any of the 4 barriers to care (OR 1.99, 95% CI 1.71-1.94, P < 0.001) were more likely to report 2 or more ED visits in the past year. Multiplicative effects were not statistically significant. Additive interaction effects of wage and barriers were only significant among workers with wages $35,000-$44,999 annually (vs. >$75,000: relative excess risk coef. 1.23, 95% CI 0.07-2.38, P = 0.037) for 2 or more ED visits in past year. Although these modifiable barriers may explain the differences in repeat ED use for workers earning $35,000-$44,999 annually, these barriers do not explain disparities in ED use between highest and lowest wage workers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-123
Number of pages9
JournalPopulation Health Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2020


  • Appointments and schedules
  • Income
  • Primary health care
  • Salary and fringe benefits


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