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Income-Based Disparities in Health Care Utilization under Universal Coverage in Brazil

By Guido Cataife and Charles J. Courtemanche

Abstract

Since Brazil's adoption of universal health care in 1988, the country's health care system has consisted of a mix of private providers and free public providers. We test whether income-based disparities in medical visits and medications remain in Brazil despite universal coverage using a nationally representative sample of over 48,000 households. Additional income is associated with less public sector utilization and more private sector utilization, both using simple correlations and regressions controlling for household characteristics and local area fixed effects. Importantly, the increase in private care use is greater than the drop in public care use. Also, income and unmet medical needs are negatively associated. These results suggest that access limitations remain for low-income households despite the availability of free public care.

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