Improving Access to Healthcare in Rural Texas Communities

News July 6, 2022

Where you live can significantly influence your health. How close is the nearest care provider or hospital? Can emergency assistance arrive quickly when seconds count? Are the resources to get and stay healthy within your reach?

Elevance Health is working to improve access to healthcare in rural communities, including in Texas, home to the largest rural population of any state. Many people enjoy the benefits of rural living, such as affordability, privacy, and land availability, but they might experience challenges with health for various reasons — from a lack of local health providers to barriers such as accessible or inclusive healthcare.

More than a quarter of Texans live in medically underserved counties. Presidio, a rural border town in Texas, is around 90 miles from the nearest hospital and has struggled to overcome some of the state’s most extreme health inequities. Barriers to healthcare that residents of Presidio and other rural areas experience were exacerbated during the pandemic, especially with the lack of access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Amerigroup Texas, an Elevance Health company, is longstanding partners with Caprock Home Health Services. Caprock employs home health workers who serve people in several rural parts of Texas. Caprock wanted to ensure that its employees and their families had opportunities to be fully vaccinated to stay healthy, and to also help safeguard their clients’ health.

More than a third of the population in Presidio does not have health insurance, 42% of adults are in poor or fair health, and the poverty rate is more than twice the national median. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, Presidio falls into an area that is classified as a Health Professional Shortage Area. In fact, visiting healthcare providers often travel hundreds of miles to serve people in Presidio.

In addition to these challenges, there were other barriers that needed to be addressed: Some Caprock employees were faced with the challenge of navigating around work schedules, vaccine appointment availability and their responsibilities as caregivers to their own family members.

Amerigroup listened to Caprock’s needs and engaged medical professionals who could support the right solutions, in the right place, at the right time. These solutions included onsite vaccination clinics that were offered during paydays, so Caprock employees and their families could get vaccinated together during their weekly visits to Caprock offices to pick up paychecks. Pharmacy partners who had the refrigeration equipment to travel long distances and administer COVID vaccines in smaller batches were also engaged to help. Additionally, Caprock vaccination clinics were opened to surrounding communities, and multilingual vaccine administrators were made available to answer questions and address health concerns of the many area residents whose native language was not English.

Identifying and addressing barriers to healthcare calls for these types of innovative solutions — solutions that are created based on the unique needs associated with rural areas.

Addressing Provider Shortages

Amerigroup Texas joined The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth (UNTHSC) and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) in a collaboration to increase healthcare access, reduce rural health inequities, and improve health outcomes in Presidio.

Amerigroup funding and supports made it possible to host multiple medical missions to the border town, where students and supervising faculty of UNTHSC’s Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (TCOM) are currently offering free health clinics to residents, and where TTUHSC providers offer care year-round. Additional Amerigroup funding has also covered costs to construct housing in Presidio, so visiting healthcare providers have a place to stay while on medical missions. Amerigroup has also provided more than $100,000 to create scholarships for students at TTUHSC, TCOM and other institutions around the state who are studying rural health.

Through partnerships and investing in the community, Amerigroup Texas and its affiliated health plans can develop innovative solutions such as these, redefining what’s possible to improve the health and well-being of people in traditionally marginalized communities.

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