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As More of Their Patients Move Outside the City, Healthcare Providers Have to Get Creative

Texas Tribune

It’s no secret that Austin’s rapid growth and gentrification have forced some residents out of their longtime neighborhoods. That trend is also posing a challenge for healthcare providers. 

Skyrocketing home prices have forced much of Austin's low-income population to move out of the central city. And that migration has made it harder for groups working to help those living in poverty to reach people in need. Marianna Gomez is a strategy analyst at Central Health. The government-funded group connects low-income Travis County residents with affordable health care services.

“Historically there have been pockets of poverty in Austin particularly on the east side, and we did have a lot of services in that part of town,” Gomez said.

But as new development rolls in, many longtime residents are getting priced out. For groups like Central Health, it’s important to track where they’re going.  

“A lot of the low-income population is moving to Pflugerville, Manor, and so we have to think about how to respond to those changes and think about where our service locations are and what types of services we’re providing in our different clinics.”

In the meantime, providers are trying to figure out how to reach those faraway patients. Jill Ramirez is president and CEO of the nonprofit Latino Healthcare Forum. They’re working to get more Austin residents insured through the Affordable Care Act. But as more of their clients move away from the city, Ramirez says they’ve had to get creative.

“So in order for us to be able to get to them, we rely a lot usually on schools, where people naturally meet.”

Gomez with Central Health says she wants to see more research on these changing demographics – like what bus routes could connect more people with healthcare facilities?

“Transportation is obviously something we want to take into consideration because if you can’t get to your healthcare provider, then what will happen after that? You might miss even more days of work.”

At this point, Gomez says the change is gradual, but Central Health is planning for the future. She says that could mean concentrating more primary care services in the suburbs, and focusing specialty care in the city center. 

Syeda Hasan is a senior editor at KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @syedareports.
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