Although lack of health insurance has been shown to be a clear barrier to care, having coverage does not guarantee access to health care and preventative services. The Institute of Medicine defines “access” as “the timely use of personal health services to achieve the best possible outcome”. Access to healthcare has sometimes been trivialized, defined by some as lag time between the moment a worried individual phones for an appointment and the time he/she actually sees a healthcare provider.
Innovative medicines have helped individuals live longer, healthier lives. Patients today have the opportunity to receive treatments that would have been unimaginable only a few decades ago. However, access to quality and timely primary care is not readily available for all individuals, especially for those with significant debility and the elderly. People often cite difficulty finding transportation, fear that a serious illness will be discovered, responsibilities of taking care of others, or ignorance how to enter the system.
Today’s health care system, which is already strained, will face even greater challenges when millions of Americans will have health insurance for the first time in the years to come. Access to health care will increasingly become more complicated and complex for those most vulnerable.