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Availability of Health Care

Most people need medical care at some time in their lives. Access to affordable, quality health care is important to physical, social, and mental health. Health insurance helps individuals and families access needed primary care, specialists, and emergency care, but does not ensure access on its own-it is also necessary for providers to offer affordable care, be available to treat patients, and be in relatively close proximity to patients.
Together, health insurance, local care options, and a usual source of care help to ensure access to health care. Having access to care allows individuals to enter the health care system, find care easily and locally, pay for care, and get their health needs met.
Neighborhoods with low health insurance rates often have fewer providers, hospital beds and emergency resources than areas with higher rates. Even the insured have more difficulty getting care in these areas.

Nationally, many areas also lack sufficient providers to meet patient needs; as of January 2014, there were about 6,000 primary care, 3,900 mental health, and 4,800 dental federally designated "Health Professional Shortage Areas" in the US. Having a usual primary care provider is associated with a higher likelihood of appropriate care, and a usual source of care is associated with better health outcomes. In 2010, 86% of Americans had a usual source of care, but those with low incomes were less likely to than those with higher incomes, and the uninsured were twice as likely as the insured to lack a usual care source.

Cost can be a barrier to care even for those who have insurance. In 2009, 17% of people younger than 65 had premium and out of pocket costs totaling more than 10% of family income. Those with private, non-group insurance were three times as likely as those with employer-sponsored insurance to face such costs.
  1. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). What is the link between having health insurance and getting adequate health care? Princeton: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF); August 2011. Health policy snapshot. as cited in County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, Access to Care. Downloaded from "" on 2/10/2015
  2. US Department of Health and Human Services. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Shortage designation: Health professional shortage areas & medically underserved areas/populations. Last reviewed January 1, 2014. Accessed March 4, 2014. as cited in County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, Access to Care. Downloaded from "" on 2/10/2015
  3. Clancy C, Munier W, Brady J, et al. 2012 National healthcare quality report. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ); 2013. as cited in County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, Access to Care. Downloaded from "" on 2/10/2015
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Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Survey

The information provided above is from the New Mexico Department of Health's NM-IBIS web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: "Retrieved Fri, 28 January 2022 from New Mexico Department of Health, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site:".

Content updated: Mon, 4 Feb 2019 12:34:34 MST