EV processed, analysed, and participated in interpreting the data, wrote the first draft and finalised the manuscript. SK and SW proposed the study design, oversaw interpretation of data and revised the paper.
In this study we investigated the distribution of self-reported health care utilisation by education and household income in a county population in Norway, in a universal public health care system based on ideals of equal access for all according to need, and not according to wealth.
The study included 24,147 women and 20,608 men aged 20 years and above in the third Nord-Trøndelag Health Survey (HUNT 3) of 2006–2008. Income-related horizontal inequity was estimated through concentration indexes, and inequity by both education and income was estimated as risk ratios through conventional regression.
We found no overall pro-rich or pro-educated socioeconomic gradient in needs-adjusted utilisation of general practitioner or inpatient care. However, we found overall pro-rich and pro-educated inequity in utilisation of both private medical specialists and hospital outpatient care. For these services there were large differences in levels of inequity between younger and older men and women.
In contrast with recent studies from Norway, we found pro-rich and pro-educated social inequalities in utilisation of hospital outpatient services and not only private medical specialists. Utilisation of general practitioner and inpatient services, which have low access threshold or are free of charge, we found to be equitable.