Accessing Health Care in Times of Economic Growth and Economic Downturn: Evidence from Ireland
This article examines the accessibility of healthcare in Ireland between 2003 and 2011 in the context of strong economic growth (2003–2007) and the subsequent financial crisis, which began in 2008. It investigates, in particular, changes in self-reported difficulties in accessing healthcare with regard to distance to health services, waiting times for appointments and the costs of seeing a doctor, and identifies particular risk factors that increase the likelihood of facing barriers in accessing health services. We conduct logistic regression analyses of cross-sectional data from the three rounds (2003, 2007, 2011) of the European Quality of Life Survey of 2682 individuals living in private households in Ireland. The study finds that the number of individuals reporting difficulties in accessing healthcare increased over time. Of particular concern are difficulties with the financial costs of covering doctor’s appointments, which started to increase dramatically prior to the economic crisis and continued to rise during the crisis, in particular for higher income groups. Difficulties with distance and waiting time declined gradually over time and appear unaffected by the financial crisis, at least until 2011. Subgroups that face significantly more difficulties are women, younger individuals, the full-/part-time employed and individuals with poor health status. Our findings contribute to the recent discussion on the effects of institutional barriers on accessing health services in the context of significant economic change.