BACKGROUND: A comprehensive picture of how the US population engages in specialty care use is lacking, even though redesign models focused on specialty care are becoming more popular.
OBJECTIVE: To describe the type of provider, primary care or specialist, most often seen by individuals, to test associations between type of provider most often seen and insurance coverage, and to test associations between the number of generalist and specialist visits and insurance coverage.
DESIGN: Cross-sectional analysis of 2013-2016 Medicaid Expenditure Panel Survey. Logistic and negative binomial models were used in multivariate regression modeling.
PARTICIPANTS: Depending on the analysis, the study samples include between 71,402 and 79,518 US residents.
MAIN MEASURES: Individuals' provider type most often seen, primary care visits, and specialist visits were reported.
KEY RESULTS: More than half of the sample (55%) predominantly visited primary care providers (or generalists), and 36% predominantly visited specialists. Among individuals primarily visiting generalists, 80% visited only one type of primary care provider, and 24% also visited one or more specialists. Among individuals primarily visiting specialists, 48% visited only one type of specialist, and 47% did not visit any generalists in the year. Among Medicare enrollees, 50% predominantly visited specialists, and 40% predominantly visited generalists. Medicare enrollment was associated with greater odds of predominantly visiting specialists (p < 0.05), and Medicare-Medicaid enrollment and having no insurance were associated with lower odds of predominantly visiting specialists (p < 0.05). Medicare enrollment was associated with 13% more generalist visits and 35% more specialist visits, and Medicare-Medicaid enrollment was associated with 38% more generalist visits and 15% more specialist visits (all p < 0.05).
CONCLUSIONS: Given the overall frequency of specialty care use and the reliance on multiple specialists in any given year, particularly among Medicare enrollees, public payers are uniquely positioned to promote specialty care redesign and champion improved coordination between specialists.