The present quantitative study evaluates the degree to which socioeconomic status (SES), as opposed to perceived need, determines utilization of publicly funded home care in Ontario, Canada.
The Registered Persons Data Base of the Ontario Health Insurance Plan was used to identify the age, sex and place of residence for all Ontarians who had coverage for the complete calendar year 1998. Utilization was characterized in two dimensions: (1) propensity - the probability that an individual received service, which was estimated using a multinomial logit equation; and, (2) intensity - the amount of service received, conditional on receipt. Short- and long-term service intensity were modeled separately using ordinary least squares regression.
Age, sex and co-morbidity were the best predictors (P < 0.0001) of whether or not an individual received publicly funded home care as well as how much care was received, with sicker individuals having increased utilization. The propensity and intensity of service receipt increased with lower SES (P < 0.0001), and decreased with the proportion of recent immigrants in the region (P < 0.0001), after controlling for age, sex and co-morbidity.
Although the allocation of publicly funded home care service was primarily based on perceived need rather than ability to pay, barriers to utilization for those from areas with a high proportion of recent immigrants were identified. Future research is needed to assess whether the current mix and level of publicly funded resources are indeed sufficient to offset the added costs associated with the provision of high-quality home care.