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Access to Health Services

A person’s ability to access health services has a profound effect on every aspect of his or her health, yet at the start of the decade, almost 1 in 4 Americans do not have a primary care provider (PCP) or health center where they can receive regular medical services. Approximately 1 in 5 Americans (children and adults under age 65) do not have medical insurance. People without medical insurance are more likely to lack a usual source of medical care, such as a PCP, and are more likely to skip routine medical care due to costs, increasing their risk for serious and disabling health conditions. When they do access health services, they are often burdened with large medical bills and out-of-pocket expenses.

Increasing access to both routine medical care and medical insurance are vital steps in improving the health of all Americans.

Health Impact of Access to Health Services

Access to health services affects a person’s health and well-being. Regular and reliable access to health services can:

  • Prevent disease and disability
  • Detect and treat illnesses or other health conditions
  • Increase quality of life
  • Reduce the likelihood of premature (early) death
  • Increase life expectancy

Primary care providers (PCPs) play an important role in protecting the health and safety of the communities they serve. PCPs can develop meaningful and sustained relationships with patients and provide integrated services while practicing in the context of family and community. Having a usual PCP is associated with:

  • Greater patient trust in the provider
  • Good patient-provider communication
  • Increased likelihood that patients will receive appropriate care

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