Articles Posted in Access to Healthcare

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The 2018 health rankings are out and Georgia is 39.  The United Health Foundation, a division of the World Health Organization publishes the yearly results.  The UHR looks at the 35 different criteria.  Some of these include:  children in poverty; prevalence of smoking; prevalence of obesity; prevalence of mental and emotional distress, immunizations, birth weight of infants, and percentage of available primary care and mental health doctors.  The model is built on the World Health Organization’s definition of health.  “Health is the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

The least healthy states are all in the south.  The bottom five are in descending order to unhealthiest:  Arkansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.  Where are the healthiest states?  Hawaii, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Utah.

What are Georgia’s health strengths?  The state’s rate of children in poverty fell to 21 percent, down from 22.9 percent last year.  The national rate of children in poverty is 18.4 percent.  Georgia has increased its number of primary care physicians.  Georgia has 121.9 primary care doctors for every 100,000 individuals.  This is a 2 percent increase from last year.   Nationally, the number of primary care doctors has increased 5 percent.  In Georgia, there are 130.2 mental health providers for every 100,000 individuals.  This is up 6% from past year.  Nationally, the number of mental health providers has increased 8 percent.  Georgia’s number of immunized children is high; violent crime deaths are down; and even adolescent drinking is down.

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One of the most frustrating problems people with disabilities experience is that a loss of a job usually leads to loss of healthcare coverage.  Filing for Social Security disability takes several months if not two years on average for a decision on an application.  When people with chronic or traumatic health problems lose their health insurance, they usually go without needed care.   Sadly, many health-impaired individuals who are unable to return to work for health reasons, also lose much-needed access to health care.

Researchers at the Boston University School of Public Health found that poverty has “emerged as an increasingly important risk factor for mortality in American adults.”  “Income is more associated with length of life now than it was 15 years ago .. we may be seeing the emergence of a health poverty trap, where essentially people who are poor don’t have the same access to the important determinants that allow them to stay healthy,” explains Jacob Bor, Assistant Professor of Global Health at Boston University and the author of the study.

We see this every day in this practice area.  One of the most frequent questions I hear is: what should I do about healthcare?  First, stay on a spouse or relative’s healthcare policy even if it means an extra expense.  Second, use any other income to purchase coverage on the healthcare exchange.  A problematic loophole to this advice is that without income, many individuals are not eligible for subsidized plans provided through the healthcare exchange.   Third, COBRA coverage allows you to stay on employer-provided healthcare coverage for 18 months after leaving a job.  However, the employee is responsible for paying the entire monthly premium amount.  Most people who are losing income due to a medical-related job loss often find this is cost-prohibitive.  Fourth, after exhausting assets and income, apply for financial assistance at Grady Healthcare, Emory University or Wellstar Kennestone.  I will not profess to be an expert in their financial departments, but many of my clients have found assistance at these three hospitals.

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