Access to Care

Alabama’s # 1 Health Concern

Alabamians identified access to care as the greatest current health concern in Alabama. Access to care means the timely use of personal health services to achieve the best possible health outcomes. Access to care requires gaining entry into the health care system, accessing a health care location where needed services are provided, and finding a health care provider with whom the patient can communicate and trust.

Access to quality health care is essential to physical, social, and mental health. Having health care services available, affordable, and accessible to all Alabamians would greatly benefit health outcomes. Access to health care impacts prevention of disease and disability as well as detection and treatment of health conditions. Improving access to care increases quality of life, reduces preventable deaths, and increases the life expectancy of the population.

Some common barriers to access to care include, but are not limited to: lack of insurance coverage, lack of availability of services in a geographical area, high costs for medical services, and lack of transportation. These barriers can lead to disparities in access to care which in turn leads to lowering the life expectancy and the quality of life of those affected. Although the Affordable Care Act should increase the proportion of Alabamians with health insurance, having health insurance alone does not ensure access to care.

Alabama Access to Care Highlights

  • Alabama has a lower percentage of uninsured population than the United States (15.8 percent versus 17.7 percent).
  • Alabamians under 19 years of age have the lowest percentage of uninsured population at 4.3 percent.
  • Hispanics in Alabama have the highest percentage of uninsured population (34.6 percent) than any other race or ethnic grouping.
  • Four Alabama counties (Blount, Dale, Elmore, and St. Clair) need more than ten FTEs to achieve the optimal level of access to primary care physicians.
  • Twenty-eight counties have reached the optimal level of access to primary care physicians; however, many of those counties need additional services available to the low-income population.
  • An additional 13 Alabama counties are within two FTEs of achieving an optimal level of access to primary care physicians.
  • Alabama has a lower percentage of households with no vehicle than the United States (6.7 percent vs. 9.2 percent).
  • PHA 7 has the largest percentage of households with no vehicle with a percentage that is almost twice the state average (13.0 percent vs. 6.7 percent).

Health Indicators

The following indicators have been selected for use in developing a benchmark or starting point for measuring the current state and monitoring future changes in access to health care in Alabama:

These indicators were chosen because they examine different aspects of access to care including insurance status, availability of services, and transportation. These indicators were also selected because the information is easily attainable and updated somewhat frequently. More access to care indicators may be added in the future.


Page last updated: August 23, 2018