...I look at the raw data first.
Yesterday, the right wing media was all in a tizzy about a report [PDF]
describing long waiting times in Massachusetts for primary care physician appointments. Of course the right wing tried to tie that in with the horrors of ROMNEYCARE. Jonathan Cohn
makes a good argument against these claims, but I have one more thing to add to that [click to enlarge the example from pediatrics specialties]:
Notice the enormous standard deviation in each county except Dukes (Martha's Vineyard) and Franklin (rural Western MA). Imagine you were to live in suburban Middlesex county and want a [first doctor's] appointment for your son or daughter, and one place you called told you to come by 8.5 months later. You'd probably call around a little and eventually find the one that tells you that you can come by the next day. Considering that the averages are towards the lower number, that tells us that many doctor's office waiting times cluster toward lower rather than the upper extreme, and that the outliers likely skew the average upwards. In other words, you'd be more likely to find a physician who could see your child earlier rather than later. Additionally, many people in Middlesex have relatively easy access to the larger university medical centers in Boston, so they could find someone who could take them earlier there as well.
Clearly, Franklin and Dukes county need some work, though.