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Unmet need as an indicator of health care access

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Ensuring adequate and fair access to health care is a priority objective for European governments. This short paper discusses the measurement, distribution and policy implications of one indicator of access to health care: self-reported unmet need or foregone care. Two international surveys – EU-SILC and SHARE – include questions on unmet need and foregone care respectively, and therefore provide an opportunity for drawing comparisons on access to health care. It appears that, overall, people who report unmet need tend to be in worse health and with lower income. However, from a policy perspective, it is important to separate the causes of unmet need into those that are more relevant to policymakers from those that reflect individuals’ preferences and tastes, to view this indicator alongside other access measures such as health care contacts, distance to facilities, waiting times and supply characteristics, and to examine long-term trends in reporting unmet need and health outcomes.

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