To determine the effect of third-party reimbursement on the use of services and indexes of diabetes-related health management among inner-city diabetic patients.
Adult diabetic patients (n = 158; 67% women, 33% men) from an inner-city diabetes clinic were categorized by level of third-party medical coverage: complete reimbursement for all services (full); partial reimbursement (part); and no reimbursement (none). Patients were followed for 13 mo. Use of billable medical services, diabetes clinic visits, emergency room visits, and hospital admissions were recorded. Use of a free, day-time diabetes telephone hot line was also documented. Indexes of diabetes-related health management, HbA1, blood pressure, and weight were compared from the beginning and the end of the study. Diabetes complications were scored and tabulated.
Univariate analysis showed that patients with full reimbursement were more likely to use services than patients without reimbursement. When the combined effects of reimbursement status, age, sex, type of diabetes, and diabetes complications on use of services were analyzed together in a multivariate analysis, complications was the best predictor of admissions to the hospital and whether a patient called the hot line. IDDM patients and patients with full reimbursement were most likely to have an emergency room visit. Age was the best predictor of diabetes clinic attendance. No difference was noted in blood pressure or weight among the reimbursement groups at the beginning and end of study. However, the trend was toward (P < 0.05) an increase in HbA1 in the none group.
Among inner-city diabetic patients, multiple factors influence use of medical services. Indigent diabetic patients without third-party reimbursement were observed to have a rise in HbA1. These factors should be taken into consideration when planning strategies to prevent diabetes complications and the most effective allocation of health-care resources.