Access To Healthcare and Resources In a Rural Area

Ones access to healthcare related resources and the healthcare system in general within their local community is an important factor when looking at the overall health of a given population. This post will explore what factors determine who has and does not have access to healthcare resources within Knox, NY.
Since Knox is a rural town, there are actually no healthcare offices located within Knox. However, there are some in neighboring towns such as Guilderland, Slingerlands, and Amsterdam  (though, depending on where one lives within Knox, the drive to these towns are about 15-30 minutes). The lack of healthcare offices within Knox poses obvious challenges but these are challenges can be drastically augmented depending on ones access to transportation.
Personally, finding time to drive the 30 minutes it takes me to get to my doctors office and then the 30 minutes back can be challenging at times.

While I have gotten daily used to it, cutting out a whole hour of the day just to get to and from my doctors office can be frustrating at times (this is not including the time it takes once I am there). As annoying as the long commutes can be, I still have the ability to access a doctors office. However, the access that I have to my doctors office is entirely dependent on my ability to access a car. Without a car, I would have no access to healthcare resources. People who live in rural areas, such as Knox, must rely on transportation via car for the most part. In the years that I have lived here, I have never seen a bus (or a even a bus stop). I have inquired about what it would cost to call an Uber, but since there are no drivers out here this is not a cheap option. If I were to call an Uber right now to bring me to my doctors office, it would cost $47 just for one way. In addition to this, it would also be a 20 minute wait for the Uber to drive all the way to Knox (though this is constantly changing based on where the closest Uber driver is at the time).
I mentioned this in last weeks post, but the median income in
Knox is $89,625, so the likelihood that the majority (if not all) living in Knox have access to a car (even if one does not own a car). Having a car is certainly a priority because without one, there is little ability to go much of anywhere. Still, there are people that live under the poverty line in Knox, many of which prioritize paying for a car.
95.2% of Knox’s population is covered by some sort of health insurance. While this is a great majority, there are still hurdles to physically getting to an office.
Given one can overcome the barriers of physically getting to a doctors office, there is still the question of access in terms on insurance. One perk of living far away from healthcare related offices is that since the commitment of driving is baked into living here, it becomes easier to chose an office that is most compatible with ones insurance. For example, one of the reasons I go to the doctor that I do is that since I will be driving far no matter what, I was able to consider other things while choosing: such as the staff and how much my insurance car would cover. However, not everyone has access to insurance which means that finding services with little to no payment is important. Again, while it is a challenge that there are so such offices within Knox, one must begin to look at other towns. Within all of Albany county, there are a decent amount low-cost or free clinics such as Whitney M. Young Health Center. They operate on a sliding-scale payment method, meaning the amount you pay for a given service depends on your income.
The pandemic has not has a drastic effect specifically to Knox. There are obviously changes to what one has to do when going to a doctors office, but the changes seen are not unique to Knox. In fact, compared to the rest of Albany county, Knox has been doing well in regards to the pandemic. The most relevant challenge the the pandemic poses is on local business. There are not too many businesses in Knox that are not local, actually. In this way, Knox has been effected largely. Local markets and restaurants are really the only local source of food without committing to a 15-20 minute drive to the grocery store. As a result to the lockdowns, there are many locally-owned businesses that have been forced to close. This has a dramatic effect on those who have invested their time, money, and effort into their business and also on those who rely on them.
Access to healthcare related services within Knox is entirely dependent on access to a car (or other means of transportation, thought there are not many other options in Knox). A lot of the time, when we think of access I think that insurance is the first thing to come to mind. When I began this post, I planned on writing about this first. However, I quickly realized that in a town like Knox, insurance is not even a question until one can physically get to an office. While Telehealth services are not ideal, I think that using them if one cannot get to an office is a good idea (better than nothing). However, there is also a problem with this in rural areas because cell service and internet are generally quite unreliable (depending on the area of course). Living in a rural area poses challenges that may seem trivial (internet access or access to public transportation), but have a big impact on one’s ability to access the healthcare system.