Statistically, those living in lower-income areas are more prone to illness and injury. This is often due to decreased access to healthy food and housing and an increased prevalence of stress. However, rather than having greater access to healthcare, these individuals often face a greater number of barriers. By identifying these healthcare obstacles to overcome in impoverished areas, we can help reduce these numbers.
Cost and Insurance Coverage
In many cases, healthcare costs are prohibitive, even for the most basic of visits. Prescription medication can cost hundreds of dollars, and treating a broken bone can cost thousands.
Insurance coverage like Medicaid offers some relief, but not always. Some aren’t eligible for it; others live in states without fully expanded Medicaid options. Even those who do have it often find that many doctors don’t accept it. This leads many patients into the painful situation of needing to choose between essential costs. School registration or a checkup? Heart medication or a dentist appointment?
Reduced Numbers of Urban Hospitals
Even with coverage, finding healthcare can also prove challenging. In recent years, hospitals in urban areas have closed at an alarming rate, even in the country’s largest cities. New hospitals and general primary care physicians are hesitant to move into these areas.
These hospitals often close because they lack funding, in part because residents in the surrounding area are less likely to be able to pay for care. This is a vicious cycle that is difficult to break. Budgeting tricks like financing medical equipment can offer some help, though hospitals often have to turn to outside resources for funding.
Time and Transportation
For some, the greatest obstacles aren’t about the healthcare itself, but about their ability to access it. Patients often need to take time off work and drive themselves to the hospital or doctor for a checkup. But those in impoverished areas may not be able to afford missing work, making it difficult to get a regular appointment.
Additionally, getting to the hospital itself may be impossible if patients don’t have cars. Those in suburban or rural areas may have limited access to public transportation. Those with access may still have trouble if their local hospital has closed and they need to travel further. In serious medical situations, getting on public transportation may also prove difficult, and ambulance rides can cost nearly $500.
The healthcare obstacles facing impoverished areas are real, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have solutions. By identifying the issues and their causes, we can help reach the areas most in need.