As local communities continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, understanding the population and resource availability becomes increasingly important. Accessibility and affordability of healthcare are crucial during these times, as the virus does not discriminate against whom it affects. While the pandemic has caused changes in everyone’s lives, individuals without health insurance, access to transportation, and access to mental health services are a part of the population that is being particularly negatively affected.
To focus on the specific challenges faced by a local community during this pandemic, this blog will focus on the Albany, New York area and its population (1).
In the U.S., there are over 28 million uninsured individuals (2). It can be incredibly expensive to try and afford basic care without health insurance, and patients without health insurance are limited in the providers they can see and make appointments with. Uninsured people are therefore far less likely to get medical care, which means they are not receiving yearly checkups and don’t have access to preventative measures, such as cancer screenings or blood pressure tests. In many cases, medical care is only sought in emergencies.
While the uninsured rate in New York has decreased in recent years, there are few options for those that are uninsured in Albany. One of these options is Surya Immediate Medical Care– while not currently accepting any ill patients due to the pandemic, the center accepts patients without insurance and allows self-payments. A new visit costs $150, while an established visit costs $100. Charges for additional services like strep tests and x-rays are listed on their website. For dental health, Aspen Dental in Albany is a practice that provides free exams and x-rays on the first visit, without insurance.
Access to Transportation
Being able to make an appointment is one thing, but actually getting to the doctor’s office is another– access to transportation is something that can often prevent patients from receiving the healthcare they need. One of the COVID-19 testing sites in Albany is at SUNY Albany. However, to be tested, individuals need transportation to the testing site and must be in a vehicle when they are being tested. Some resources that provide transportation include UberHealth, Medanswering services for individuals with Medicaid, and CDTA transit for Albany county resident seniors over the age of 60.
More recently, some mobile testing sites have become available and are listed here, which can allow some individuals to have access to testing without needing transportation, depending on where they live.
Mental Health Services
Mental health is an equally large component and contributor to overall health and wellbeing as physical health. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals are experiencing loneliness, anxiety, and other mental health issues as daily lifestyles have changed due to quarantine and social interaction is limited. To try and support individuals at home, some hotlines have become available 24/7 or throughout the week to provide help. A COVID-19 support line is available at (518) 269-6634, from 8 am to 8 pm every day. Additional hotlines and mental health resources in Albany are listed here.
While the Albany area has begun to respond to changes in healthcare availability and accessibility due to the pandemic, there are still some areas that can be improved upon, such as increased access to basic care and preventative services for people who are uninsured. Additionally, access to health insurance, transportation, and mental health services are only a few of the determinants of health and wellbeing– what do you think your local community can improve upon when it comes to the health of its population?