Whitesburg KY

Do you qualify for help with healthcare?

Affordable access to medical care is at the heart of a continuing national debate about the future of healthcare. Nowhere is this issue more clear than in eastern Kentucky.

Many healthcare providers in Appalachia have made it a part of their mission to provide medical care to people who cannot afford it. Working through state programs like Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) coverage and the Medicaid program, hospitals and clinics in Central Appalachia can help patients in need get healthcare services. This is an essential part of our not-for-profit mission at Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) as it is in many of the hospitals and clinics throughout Kentucky.

ARH, operating nine hospitals and a network of clinics, home health and other services, goes far beyond state and federal support to provide care to people who simply can’t afford it.

Helping our neighbors who are eligible to understand how to use state and federal assistance programs can help improve the health of our entire region. So can changing people’s awareness about the importance of preventive healthcare.

Many people who haven’t grown up with regular doctor visits and health screenings don’t realize these visits can save lives. The Courier-Journal featured a front-page article recently titled, “Eastern Kentucky Bears High Rate of Cervical Cancer.”

While this article focused only on cervical cancer, it points to a larger overall problem – the lack of obtaining timely healthcare. According to the article, the reasons behind the higher incidence and deaths of cervical cancer are poverty and lack of health insurance combined with doctor shortages, transportation problems and a cultural tendency for women to care for others while neglecting their own health.

Cost of care was an issue for each of the women featured in the article. “You either buy your child something to eat or go to the doctor. A lot of times, you don’t go to the doctor,” one woman was quoted as saying.

After reading the article, many ARH employees, including myself, thought it was important to spread the word to our communities in the mountains on how to qualify for assistance programs that would benefit the health of our community.

Fortunately, DSH and Medicaid are designed to help with preventive care too. DSH is available to Kentucky’s low-income citizens through hospitals, including those in the ARH system, that participate in the Kentucky Medicaid program. To qualify for DSH, a person must be uninsured, ineligible for Medicaid and have a total family income no greater than 100 percent of the established Federal Poverty Guidelines. For a family of four, that’s about $21,200 per year.

If you have a neighbor, friend or family member who could be assisted by these programs, ask them to contact the local health department, family physician or community hospital to find out if they’re eligible. Regular doctor checkups, preventive health screenings and healthy lifestyles can make a big difference in a person’s quality of life and life expectancy.

Jerry W. Haynes is the president and chief executive officer for Appalachian Regional Healthcare, a not-for-profit health system which operates the Whitesburg hospital.

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