Many people assume that the government helps low income people who really need medical care – people diagnosed with cancer or other potentially life-threatening illnesses. I used to think that, too.
But then I spoke with Ruth Fishbeck, director of the Health Initiative in Potsdam, for a story about health care needs in the North Country. She told me that a lot of sick people don’t get government assistance – even when they can’t afford medical care. So they go without doctor visits, lab work, and medications.
Fishbeck says this is having serious health consequences in St. Lawrence County. It’s ranked among the worst of New York’s 62 Counties by most health measures. Here’s what Fishbeck had to say…
“People are dying. We rank in health outcomes, we rank 58th or 59th out of 62, and that means premature death and sickness. And a lot of it is simply the lack of money to get adequate health care.”
Fishbeck says people who have health insurance just don’t understand how hard it can be to go to the doctor, when it might leave you without money for rent or food.
“So many people are under the impression that there are programs, that the government wouldn’t let somebody with cancer not get treatment because they don’t have money. But that happens every day because there is no program.”
Fishbeck thinks the new national health care law will help more people to afford insurance. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the law in the next few weeks.
What do you think about health care in the North Country? Is lack of money the main issue – or do you have other concerns? And do you think attempts to make health insurance more affordable will help?