Objective: Most Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries are working toward the provision of universal health coverage, and ensuring equity is a priority for those nations. The goal of this study was to examine the extent to which adults’ socioeconomic status was related to health care experience in six LAC countries.
Methods: This cross-sectional study examined the relationship between educational attainment and seven health experience outcomes in three areas: assessment of the health system, access to care, and experience with general practitioner. For this work, we used data from an Inter-American Development Bank survey of adults in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Jamaica, Mexico, and Panama that was conducted in 2012-2014.
Results: Brazil and Jamaica, the two countries with unified public coverage, stood out for having substantially greater inequality, according to the results of bivariate analyses, with more-educated respondents reporting better health care experiences for five of the seven outcomes. For Jamaica, educational differences largely remained in multivariate analyses: college graduates were less likely (odds ratio (OR) = 0.37) than those with primary education to report their health system needs major reform and were more likely (OR = 2.57) to have a regular doctor. In Brazil, educational differences were mostly eliminated in multivariate models, though people with private insurance consistently reported better outcomes than those with public coverage. Colombia, in contrast, exhibited the least inequality despite having the highest income inequality of the six countries.
Conclusions: Future research is needed to understand the policies and strategies that have resulted in Colombia achieving high levels of equity in patient health care experience, and Jamaica and Brazil demonstrating high levels of inequality.