Georgia’s hidden world of poverty

Dr. Karen Kinsell, who practices medicine in rural Southwest Georgia, confronts what she calls the “hidden world” of poverty daily in her Clay County office: patients who

are uninsured and have a hard time coming up with $10 for an office visit; others who are chronically ill with treatable diseases like diabetes and hypertension; still others who

lack transportation or gas money to drive 30 miles to the nearest pharmacy to get a prescription filled.

The fact that so many, especially in rural areas, cannot access basic healthcare is as troubling to her as it is inexplicable.

“This is something all humans need,” she says. “Everyone’s born, with medical attention; everyone dies, usually with a great deal of medical attention. Most people get sick a bunch of times in-between. The idea that only a certain number of people can afford this very basic requirement in one of the richest countries of the world – it just doesn’t make sense.”

Kinsell, the only doctor in her county, believes that a lot of Georgians simply don’t realize how much poverty there is throughout the state and how deep its roots go.

“It’s almost like a hidden world,” she says. “I think many people don’t have first-hand knowledge of these situations. They don’t honestly understand these situations exist.”

She is glad that Georgia is finally taking steps toward some Medicaid expansion but worries that it won’t be enough for a state that ranks so low – 49th, by one estimate – in health insurance coverage.

“If we are pretending to be this modern Southern state with the largest transportation infrastructure in the country, how are we living like a third world country in a very large part of the state? If we are the leader and the model, how can we allow this to be happening? It’s certainly not that we can’t afford it. If it’s road money or Port of Savannah money, we have it.”

Why not when it’s a matter of taking care of humans?

“I don’t think people mean to be mean. If they saw these situations,” the harm and suffering caused by lack of basic healthcare, “they would help address it themselves. I can attest that these things are going on. It’s extreme, more concentrated here, but it’s going on all over the state.”

To learn more about Dr. Kinsell and her practice, read “The Only Doctor In Town” in the June issue.

Photo of Dr. Karen Kinsell by Todd Stone

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