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A New Look at Healthcare Access

August 22, 2011
12:31 am

When we talk about people who don’t have access to healthcare, there’s a natural assumption that it’s because they can’t afford it.  A new study shows that’s not necessarily the case.

According to the study published in the journal Health Services Research, 21 percent of American adults said they had delayed care for non-financial reasons compared to 19 percent that cited cost as the primary reason for not seeking healthcare.

Those non-financial reasons included not being able to get to a doctor’s office during working hours, long commutes to the medical office, or not being able to get an appointment soon enough.  As the study’s lead author said, “In reality, there are all kinds of reasons why people can’t get the care they need when they need it.”

There are at least a couple of important points to take from this report.  One is that healthcare providers have to continue exploring creative ways, from telemedicine to non-traditional office hours, to meet the needs of today’s patient population.

More importantly, though, as we’ve said often over the past several months, coverage and access are not synonymous with each other.  The Affordable Care Act makes health coverage available to all Americans, but that doesn’t mean that all of these newly-insured patients will have easy access to quality care.  If some patients today, as the study indicates, have difficulty getting an immediate appointment with a physician, that problem may only worsen when an influx of new patients, the aging of the baby boom generation and a future shortage of healthcare professionals converge.

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In a post in this column last week, we mentioned that Texas Governor Rick Perry’s candidacy for the presidency may help ignite a national debate over medical liability reform, since Texas has adopted one of the most effective tort reform measures in the country.

It didn’t take long for those battle lines to be drawn.  Politico is reporting today that the nation’s trial attorneys are ready to dig deeply into their pockets to make sure Perry is defeated.

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