All kinds of people - men, women, old, young, rich, poor - seek out health care. But studies show that not everyone accesses and receives care in the same way. For example, options are clearly limited for those who don't have health insurance or can't afford to pay out-of-pocket for care. In the Kaiser Health News story Unconventional Clinic Providing Safety Net for Women, Andy Miller profiles a clinic in Georgia that aims to help women with such limited options. The Women's Organization for Reproductive and Total Healthcare (W.O.R.T.H) clinic provides free and low-cost gynecological and primary care services for those who can't otherwise afford them. Although, as Andy points out, "Despite the array of free and low-cost clinics across the state, many financially strapped patients can't get certain services they need."
Many parents find themselves using emergency rooms as a source of health care for their children. Dr. Christopher Johnson, a pediatric intensive care doctor, examines how children get access to care via emergency departments (EDs). He reports that children who are poor, uninsured or insured by Medicaid are more likely to make non-emergency, 'inappropriate' visits to EDs.' Dr. Johnson notes that, "ED care is extremely expensive care: the same visit for asthma, for example, is far cheaper in the office than in the ED. But if you're a parent whose child is without regular healthcare, where are you supposed to go, if not the ED?"
However, having health insurance is not a guarantee of having access to health care. People with disabilities have trouble accessing care regardless of their insurance status, according to Austin Frakt, a professor and blogger at The Incidental Economist. Austin writes that people with disabilities are more likely than people without them to have problems or delay getting needed medical and dental care and medications. "One reason," he writes, "is that those with disabilities may have more need for health care and, therefore, more opportunity to experience access problems."
Finding good care and making the most of it clearly remains a significant challenge as 2011 winds down. Hopefully 2012 will bring new solutions.