The majority of refugees spend the greater part of their lives in refugee camps before repatriation or resettlement to a host country. Limited resources and stress during residence in refugee camps can lead to a variety of acute and chronic diseases which often persist upon resettlement. However, for most resettled refugees little is known about their health needs beyond a health assessment completed upon entry. We conducted a qualitative pilot-study in San Diego County, the third largest area in California, USA for resettling refugees, to explore health care access issues of refugees after governmental assistance has ended. A total of 40 guided in-depth interviews were conducted with a targeted sample of informants (health care practitioners, employees of refugee serving organizations, and recent refugee arrivals) familiar with the health needs of refugees. Interviews revealed that the majority of refugees do not regularly access health services. Beyond individual issues, emerging themes indicated that language and communication affect all stages of health care access--from making an appointment to filling out a prescription. Acculturation presented increased stress, isolation, and new responsibilities. Additionally, cultural beliefs about health care directly affected refugees' expectation of care. These barriers contribute to delayed care and may directly influence refugee short- and long-term health. Our findings suggest the need for additional research into contextual factors surrounding health care access barriers, and the best avenues to reduce such barriers and facilitate access to existing services.