Money Can't Buy You Health Care

A new report says financial considerations aren't the biggest barrier keeping people from regular health care.

Starting next year, the United States will knock down a major barrier to preventative health care: We've pledged to make birth control and annual well-woman physicals co-pay free in 2012. But money isn't the only thing stopping Americans from making an appointment. According to a new report, even more Americans are putting off doctor's visits for institutional barriers unrelated to cashflow.

The report found that while 19 percent of U.S. adults "did not get needed medical care or delayed medical care because they were worried about the cost or their health insurance would not pay for treatment," 21 percent reported putting off medical care due to "nonfinancial barriers" to care. Those included "being too busy with work or other commitments, not being able to get to the doctor’s office when it was open, not being able to get an appointment soon enough and taking too long to get to the doctor’s office," the Health Behavior News Service reports. And those two groups tend to overlap, meaning that the people who face financial barriers to medical care are the same ones facing additional barriers to making it to the doctor.

The Health Behavior News Service offers a few health care policy fixes to improve access going forward, including "offering evening and weekend outpatient health services, making it easier to get a timely appointment with a health care provider, increasing the use of email and telemedicine communications and providing incentives for providers to work in underserved areas."

But if anything, these survey results demonstrate how health care access intersects with other institutional disadvantages—and making access equal will require solutions from outside the medical field, too. That will mean more paid leave, even for employees who aren't full time; access to child care for parents who need a check-up; and better public transportation access to get people to the doctor on time. The U.S. government has demonstrated its commitment to paying for health care—now, it needs to get more creative.

Photo (cc) via Flickr user Toca Boca