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Health Care Affordability in Central and East Texas
Health Care Affordability in Austin: Komen Takes Action
Note: Komen Greater CETX initiated its affordability programs when it was still Komen Austin, but its benefits now apply across the entire Greater Central and East Texas region.
Recently, the Austin Metropolitan Area has experienced a substantial population increase due to a thriving economy. Tens-of-thousands of people arrive in the city each year seeking employment and opportunity. Despite the benefits of a booming economy and growing city, the population explosion is also causing cost-of-living in Austin to rise. Basic necessities such as housing, transportation, and groceries are all becoming less and less affordable. In a recent article titled “A Community Can’t be Affordable Unless It’s Healthy”, Central Health detailed the implications of this population boom in regards to affordable health care, a pressing concern for many families in Austin.
Inability to afford health care can be a substantial problem especially for low-income families. Despite Austin’s growing economy, 33,583 families in Travis County in 2014 were found to be living below the federal poverty line which is defined as an annual income of $23,850 dollars. This number is expected to increase by 13 percent by 2019. As a hub for creatives, Austin’s large population of artists, musicians and day laborers are included in these numbers.
These statistics are concerning because families living in poverty have to prioritize basic needs and health care can often be put aside for more pressing concerns. Austin’s issues with lack of affordability will only discourage more people from seeking care especially with the rising costs of other basic needs. This issue is not just a concern for individuals and households, it also places a heavy burden on the community as a whole when workers stay home due to illness or kids are unable to make it to school. Furthermore, frequent hospital visits from uninsured or underinsured patients can raise insurance rates for the entire community.
Despite the rising costs of health care in Travis County, organizations such as Komen Austin are working to support local residents unable to afford health care. Breast cancer can derail the lives of individuals in Travis County, particularly those that are low income, uninsured and underserved. In Travis County, breast cancer incidence rates of 124.0 per 1000,000 women are significantly higher than breast cancer incidence rates for the state of Texas at 114.4 per 100,000 women. In fact, breast cancer represents the second leading cause of death for women in Travis County. From these numbers, it is clear that breast cancer represents an illness of concern in the Austin area. Coupled with the affordability crisis, breast cancer can have a detrimental effect on the lives of Austin residents unable to afford care.
Komen Austin is aware of the socioeconomic conditions in Austin and is committed to saving lives locally by removing barriers to care for those who are uninsured and underinsured. Currently, Komen funds breast health services in Travis County through the Alliance for African American Health in Central Texas (AAAHCT), Breast Cancer Resource Centers of Texas (BRCR), and Community Care. Despite the rising costs of living in Travis County, Komen Austin will continue to make breast health care accessible for individuals and families affected by breast cancer.