Many people have difficulty acquiring adequate health care. One of the primary reasons is lack of adequate health insurance, but other issues such as cost, location and availability of services, transportation and ability to take time off work can contribute. Access to care can also be described as the degree of fit between the patient and the health care system – are the right services available, at the right time and at the right place? Is care delayed or are there long waits for appointments? When access to health care is compromised people are more likely to use emergency room services inappropriately, or forego medical care entirely, which can lead to poorer health, unnecessary hospitalizations and premature death.
Healthy People 20/20 (http://healthypeople.gov/2020/topicsobjectives2020/overview.aspx?topicid=1) describes four essential components for understanding the issue of access to care: 1) adequate health insurance coverage; 2) having a usual and ongoing source of care with a primary care provider, as well as access to rapidly responding emergency care; 3) timely provision of health care when needed; and 4) having an adequate workforce of primary care physicians. Access to comprehensive, quality health care services is important for the achievement of health equity and for increasing the quality of a healthy life for everyone.