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Falling Behind: Americans' Access to Medical Care Deteriorates, 2003-2007

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The number and proportion of Americans reporting going without or delaying needed medical care increased sharply between 2003 and 2007, according to findings from the Center for Studying Health System Change's (HSC) nationally representative 2007 Health Tracking Household Survey. One in five Americans—59 million people—reported not getting or delaying needed medical care in 2007, up from one in seven—36 million people—in 2003. While access deteriorated for both insured and uninsured people, insured people experienced a larger relative increase in access problems compared with uninsured people. Moreover, access declined more for people in fair or poor health than for healthier people. In addition, unmet medical needs increased for low-income children, reversing earlier trends and widening the access gap with higher-income children. People reporting access problems increasingly cited cost as an obstacle to needed care, along with rising rates of health plan and health system barriers.