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Report: Older, Rural New Yorkers Need Greater Healthcare Access

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Friday, November 12, 2021   

ALBANY, N.Y. -- A new report showed rural New Yorkers face disparities in access to healthcare, and advocates for older residents said it underscores the need for action on a statewide level.

AARP New York compiled data which showed rural New Yorkers ages 50 and older are less healthy and are more likely to be living with a disability compared to residents of urban areas.

Beth Finkel, state director of AARP New York, said access to doctors is a big problem.

"If you're not regularly monitoring your health, if you're not seeing a physician on a regular basis, you're going to have a problem," Finkel contended. "No one's going to be there to be able to say to you, 'Your cholesterol is too high.'"

The report noted there are half as many critical-access hospitals for rural New Yorkers than for New York City residents. AARP recommended tax credits and grants to link more rural homes to emergency medical services, and increased funding for nutrition programs and transportation services.

Rural New York generally has a larger share of older adults than urban areas.

Sen. Rachel May, D-Syracuse, who chairs both the Aging and Rural Resources committees, said working in rural healthcare must become more sustainable.

"The number one reason is the same reason as in cities: We just don't have enough people going into health care, especially long-term care, to meet the need now, let alone the increased need in the future," May asserted.

Sen. May has sponsored a bill in the Health Committee which would increase minimum pay for home-care aides, and set minimum rates for providers' Medicaid reimbursement.

The AARP report also revealed regional disparities in digital connectivity. In Albany, Erie and Monroe counties, 99% of residents have access to high-speed internet, but in Yates County, it's 73%, and only 24% in Hamilton County.

Finkel pointed out reliable internet connections affect healthcare, especially in the pandemic.

"We're all going to need more internet services, broadband, we're going to make sure that we can get telehealth," Finkel stated. "And you can't get telehealth if you don't have the internet."

Finkel added AARP is also pushing for increased access to telehealth technology, equipment and training, and subsidies for low-income older rural New Yorkers to help them afford devices.

Disclosure: AARP New York contributes to our fund for reporting on Civil Rights, Community Issues and Volunteering, Health Issues, and Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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