How do we define “Access”?

Access. Just what does that small little word mean. I went old school and dug my old dusty Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary from my bookcase to investigate its meaning. As defined by Webster “access” means:

1) Onset  2) permission, liberty, or ability to enter, approach, communicate with or pass to and from 3) freedom or ability to make use of. And apparently in 1962 (and yes my dictionary is verrrrry old!) this definition was added… 4)to get at or gain access to.

Access is a favorite word of the Republican Party. For that matter I think it is a great word. I “access” information everyday from books, the internet, colleagues, the environment, family. I have access to my automobile, to stores, to food. But when we use that word in reference to healthcare, it becomes a little more ambiguous. I have heard tv personalities and politicians say things like…”we have access to a Ferrari but that doesn’t mean we can afford it.” And therein lies (pun intended) the rub.

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The new healthcare plan, the glorious long-awaited replacement for the Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare, is big on access if you make big bucks. This new piece of garbage legislation will strip healthcare benefits from approximately 24 million people by 2026 and provide big tax cuts for the upper 1% of our population. It would defund Planned Parenthood, the reliable provider for poor and uninsured women’s healthcare. Medicaid would be reduced by approximately $880 billion. Yes, that’s billion with a “B”. If this comes to pass, emergency rooms across our nation will once again become the “go to” health clinic for the poor. The American Medical Association, AARP,  the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Nurse Association, the American Hospital Association are but a few of those opposed to this assault against the American people in the guise of better healthcare. Does the opinion of so many healthcare organizations matter to the Republican politicians trying to force this healthcare law down our throats?

Access has become a dirty word for me. Designed and used by Republicans to trick their constituency into believing that things will be better with their plan. I sincerely hope that their chicanery doesn’t work, that they are unable to pull the wool over the eyes of millions of Americans who have tasted “healthcare for all” and are coming to realize that a universal healthcare system is what our country needs now more than ever.

The time is right. It is time for America to join the other progressive nations that provide universal health care with better outcomes than we do with our outdated, expensive, poor results system that neglects to provide for the poor or less fortunate in our society. There…I have returned to my basics. We have a duty as human beings to help one another… to lend a hand to the less fortunate, to provide shelter, food and safety to the “huddled masses” whether they are immigrants to our shores or native-born Americans.

Now look up the word “afford”. According to my dictionary ….”to have enough money to pay for”. 24 million Americans won’t be able to “afford” basic healthcare. Instead of taking what we currently have and streamlining it to make it better, the Republicans are writing a prescription for a new American disaster….the death of millions of Americans because of lack of access secondary to affordability.

I frequently educate my patients to the fact that “sugar-free” does not necessarily mean “carb free”. “Access” does not necessarily mean “affordable”. Persist, Resist and make your voices heard. Demand Universal Healthcare for All! It is a right, NOT a privilege of the wealthy.

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