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Let’s talk about barriers to healthcare access, or what keeps our neighbors from being able to get the medical care they need.

Even though the Affordable Care Act made major strides in addressing our nation’s broken healthcare system, it still left people with low incomes, people of color, LGBTQ+ and undocumented individuals with many obstacles to getting treatments, doctor visits or medications. The past few years have made it even harder for these communities, thanks to the upheaval and isolation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the Supreme Court’s decision last year to overturn Roe v. Wade, taking away abortion access for millions of people nationwide.

Here are the most common barriers to healthcare many in our community face right now, and what we’re doing at Planned Parenthood of Orange & San Bernardino Counties to bridge those gaps, giving every patient the care they deserve.

Barrier #1: Financial need.

We provide financial assistance for patients who are low-income, uninsured or undocumented. PPOSBC has a care program that provides financial assistance for patients who don't have health coverage, including those who are undocumented. Because we know undocumented patients are often hesitant to come into a healthcare facility, we use social media to broadcast the availability of care assistance through social media, always emphasizing that it is safe for anyone to come to our health centers, regardless of their immigration status. For patients who are forced to travel to California from out-of-state for abortion care, we provide an abortion aid program that helps them with everything from flights and gas to lodging and transportation to their appointment at one of our health centers.

Barrier #2: Work schedules that don’t allow for sick time.

We offer medical visits when and where people can actually go to them. PPOSBC understands that many patients are wage workers, and simply can’t take sick time off of work to get to a medical appointment during normal business hours. This is why our health centers are open 7 days a week, with appointment times outside of the standard 9-5 hours of most doctors’ offices. Additionally, we have greatly expanded telehealth services for behavioral health and other appointments that don’t require a physical examination.

Barrier #3: Language barriers or limited access to education.

We communicate with our patients in clear language, and work to increase patients’ health literacy. All of our materials are written by staff who have extensive training in public health communications and understand how to write everything very clearly for a low literacy level. Translation services are offered through our call center and at appointments to ensure patients are comfortable and our community outreach team also does extensive school and community outreach in several languages, offering health education classes and workshops that help people understand their own bodies and care better.

Barrier #4: No access to a car.

Our health centers are transit-accessible, and we offer rides or transportation assistance for certain appointments. Nearly all of our health centers in Orange and San Bernardino Counties are located next to bus lines, so that they are public transit-accessible in an otherwise car-dominated region. Additionally, we offer rides or transportation assistance for certain medical appointments, including for abortion procedures.

Barrier #5: A healthcare system that doesn’t understand their identities or struggles.

We step up for patients where they may encounter bias in the healthcare system. Many LGBTQ+ patients, patients of color, and patients with obesity often encounter negative bias, unconscious or otherwise, within the U.S. healthcare system. Our staff members will advocate for their patients until they get the care they need. This could mean everything from getting on the phone with an insurance company to argue for their right to gender-affirming care when challenged, to reshaping our approach to patients of larger size with simple changes to our medical equipment and trauma-informed care that takes into account the root systemic causes of obesity.

Barrier #6: Responsibilities that keep them from getting specialist or follow-up care.

We simplify things for our patients by focusing on whole-person care, providing both reproductive healthcare and comprehensive primary care. The U.S. healthcare system is complex and hard to navigate. It also traditionally treats women’s health and primary care as entirely separate issues, which makes things even more difficult for patients with childcare or other responsibilities. This is also generally a challenge in particular for people who are low-income, not proficient in English or don’t have the time, resources or knowledge to see multiple providers. PPOSBC is one of the few Planned Parenthood affiliates in the country that seeks to bridge this gap by going beyond reproductive care and focusing on whole-person care, offering services like online mental health counseling and comprehensive primary care for Medi-Cal patients through our primary care arm Melody Health.

We know that there are deeply entrenched systemic inequities that keep many people in southern California from seeing a doctor or otherwise getting necessary healthcare. However, at Planned Parenthood of Orange & San Bernardino Counties, we are committed to providing compassionate, quality healthcare to any patient who walks through our doors.

To learn more about how we can help you get the care you need, visit pposbc.org. To make an appointment call 714-922-4100.


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