Income-based inequities in access to psychotherapy and other mental health services in Canada and Australia
Authors: Mary H. Bartram and Jennifer M. Stewart
This paper compares income-based inequities in access to psychotherapy and other mental health services in Canada and Australia, two federal parliamentary systems with sharply contrasting responses to high rates of unmet need. Income-based inequity is measured by need-standardized concentration indices, using comparable data from the Canadian Community Health Survey 2011-2012 and the Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Well-Being 2007. The results indicate that utilization of psychologist services is more concentrated at higher income levels (i.e. pro-rich) than the other provider groups in both countries, and may be more pro-rich in Canada than in Australia. While the distribution of unmet need for psychotherapy was expected (as a negative indicator of access) to be more concentrated at lower income levels (i.e. pro-poor) under Canada’s two-tier system, unmet need was not more equitable in Australia despite expanded public insurance coverage. As psychotherapy was made universally affordable for the first time in Australia in 2006, a possible backlog effect may have driven up both service utilization and unmet need, particularly among lower-income Australians. The impact of different Medicare co-payment policies also warrants further exploration.
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