COVID-19 is especially hard on poor people

This is partially due to limited access to care and treatment, which should concern us all

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Photo by H Shaw on Unsplash

all know, from eight-plus months of stories and endless information on the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, that it’s a so-called equal opportunity sickness: it strikes everyone, regardless of age, gender, or economic circumstances. Unfortunately it is also unavoidably true — as in the cases of many illnesses — that poor people are more likely to suffer and possibly die from the virus.

Perhaps this is not the case in other industrialized countries, such as in Europe, Asia, and others that have socialized health care. But it is a fact of life here in the U.S. that medical care is so ridiculously expensive that it’s practically a luxury. Therefore, the economic situations of some people in this country mean that poor people have less access to medical care, might not have health insurance, or they lack the resources to get to a medical facility to get tested and/or cared for. Sad, but true, and maybe not many of the more “more well-to-do people” think much about it. Though they should.

Some might argue with this and say, you can order tests online, which is true. But not everybody has the internet and/or a computer or smartphone and therefore they cannot access tests or register for testing online. I live in a rural area and I actually know some people who are not internet-savvy, etc. Because I know this, it is irritating to me that these people are deprived of things that those of us with computer knowledge have access to.

Everyone who is technologically capable seems to assume that everyone else can use a computer, download apps, surf the Web … but they are wrong. And I believe assuming that everyone is on board with technology is short-sighted and not serving poor people who maybe can’t afford computers, smartphones, and internet access. Or those who have no interest in learning to use computers (yes, I know it’s their choice, but still).

This came to my mind last week while I was online ordering a do-it-yourself COVID testing kit. It made me think of those who can’t do what I was doing because they aren’t online. A few months ago I was on the internet to make an appointment to be tested at a nearby free testing site. Because said site was 13 miles from my home, it brought to mind how people who don’t/can’t drive are not being served, because they don’t have the means or access to get to to be tested. And that makes me sad.

If one wants to go to a hospital for testing, good luck with that. There may be the obstacle of getting transportation there, that is if one can actually get an appointment. You know how they don’t want sick people going to health-care places these days. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “if you have symptoms, don’t come here.” Well, just how in the world are people supposed to know what they have and/or get help for it if they can’t get into the clinic in the first place?

Numerous people I know have expressed being confounded and frustrated by what appears to be over-cautiousness on all the healthcare fronts these days … though I do understand why they must be this way, it still is a bit, um, daunting if you will. Come to think of it, all the people I know who have been frustrated by “all this that’s going on nowadays” are also those in the financial position to actually go get tested. And many of them have, with some of them coming out positive (and, thankfully, surviving).

But I’m writing this to be a voice to those less-moneyed people who need someone to advocate for them.

Prior to making the appointment online the other day for myself, I’d called my primary medical care provider asking for a test. I was called back later and told I’d have to first do a video visit with my provider prior to doing the test. I’m assuming this was to assess whether or not I had the symptoms and thus would be sent to a special room for the testing (or possibly told to stay home).

This kind of frosted my shorts, because of course the video visit would be charged to my insurance, as I’m sure would the test itself. As it were I just had to drive a 40-mile round trip (in a car that reportedly averages 21 miles per gallon) to get a free test — if one does not count the cost of mileage and wear and tear on one’s car — which is not something everyone can afford to do. I did get my DIY test today, which also didn’t cost me a thing, except for the fact that I have Wi-Fi (which is an expense) that enabled me to order the test.

Virtual medical appointments require one to know how to use Zoom (or maybe other platforms about which I have no knowledge) which, of course, requires that one have a computer or smartphone. This is another way in which this illness is hurting lower-income persons: for one, needing the technology to utilize video visits and therefore entailing yet another expense that not everyone can pay.

Having this realization, plus knowing some people (for example my father, whose world is shrinking due to memory problems associated with early-stage Alzheimers) don’t have the technology and/or the knowledge to use it spurred me on to help. In my dad’s case he used to be on the computer all the time, was on Facebook and used his e-mail (which he apparently quit doing some time ago). In this pandemic, I’ve helped him make appointments online, driven him to various medical facilities, and downloaded an app for him. And I am happy to be able to do so.

Anyone who may read this and realize that they also have friends and/or relatives in the same boat (as in they can’t afford transportation to the doctor, or don’t have the technology or knowledge for online visits or making appointments), lend them a hand. If you are are privileged enough to have the resources to help another “in these challenging/difficult/unprecedented times,” please do so. You might save the life of someone you love by benefitting them with your resources.

Experienced professional writer/freelancer and former newspaper reporter-turned-online writer/blogger. Thinker. “Old soul”, young hippie, empath.

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