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New York State has made considerable headway in reducing the number of uninsured people in the state, including in western and central New York. According to an analysis by the Health Foundation for Western & Central New York’s (HFWCNY) counties like Tompkins and Cortland which had an uninsured rate estimated at 13.2% now have uninsured rates of 3.5% in Tompkins and 6.3% in Cortland (2019). Even so, in a recent HFWCNY report titled: Reaching the Five Percent: A Profile of Western and Central New Yorkers Without Health Coverage, hundreds of thousands of people are still uninsured despite being eligible: over 150,000 uninsured in western and central New York had income that may have made them eligible for assistance, and over 95,000 of them met the income standards for free or very low-cost coverage through Medicaid.
However, in this report, supported by HFWCNY, NY StateWide Senior Action Council found that reducing gaps in health insurance coverage is only the first step in reducing barriers to good, affordable health care. After conducting ten focus groups across eight counties in central NY and retrieving individual health access evaluations from 111 participants, NY StateWide identified important insights into the issues and injustices central NY residents face when seeking care. We believe the findings from this report speak to the experiences of many residents in central NY. Participants in all groups consistently identified barriers, that not only impeded with their ability to access care, but illustrated a lack of agency and choice in receiving excellent care.
Key findings from the focus groups include:
1) Insurance does not equal Health Care
2) The cost of services and medication was a major concern, mentioned in every focus group across eight counties.
3) The lack of medical services, providers, reliable transportation and a decreasing number of physicians in rural communities leaves residents vulnerable and isolated from receiving care.
4) The need to improve communications and transparency to increase accessibility and decrease barriers to learning about resources.
5) All counties suggested the need for a system change, including passing into law options such as Single Payer, Medicare for All and Universal Health Care.
The purpose of this report is to uplift the voices of central NY residents and share their opinions and perspectives to help inform community-centered solutions to accessing good health care. As residents, health care professionals, legislators and advocates are searching for a solution to improving our health system, the experiences and recommendations of directly impacted communities must be acknowledged with intention. This report gives context and direction to further guide our work and community-centered initiatives in 2020 and beyond.
Report on Central NY Focus