May 13, 2013 9:22 AM by Elizabeth Hill
"I know I can't afford it or I'll be paying for this procedure the rest of my life."
For the last ten years Betty Hanchett has been plagued by a neck injury.
"It's a matter of really having to endure the pain."
Hanchett first got into the University Medical Center system in 2003, but it took several years before she finally met a specialist and learned her injury would require surgery. After paying out of pocket for every emergency room visit and lab test, Hanchett knew she simply couldn't afford it.
"I'm still paying for all of this, so the idea of having surgery that's going to cost $100,000 is scary"
Hanchett works full time, but her job doesn't provide insurance.
"I'm working, so I don't qualify for medicaid, i'm too young for medicare."
Hanchett is just one of many people in St. Landry Parish relying on the Southwest Louisiana Primary Healthcare Center in Opelousas. It's a federally funded clinic serving mostly under-insured and uninsured residents.
"The doctor has to see 50-60 patients a day, he can't cover all of the issues."
"Things have not changed very much in terms of access to care."
Medical Director of the clinic, Dr. Leone Elliott, says for patients who need treatment beyond what the clinic can provide or who seek preventative care like screenings for cancer, their options are limited.
"The LSU Health System is not equipped to do routine screenings, they mostly do disease management, so they wait till things become a problem."
Sadly, some of the most common problems Elliott sees are preventable.
"Diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and cancer."
Hanchett's particular ailment may not be among the most common, but in her struggle for quality care, she's not alone.
Dr. Elliott believes the national trend is going toward more preventative care and making sure patients follow through with treatments before a major problem occurs.
While this method would save the country millions in future healthcare costs, it is more expensive on the front end.
According to countyhealthrankings.org , St. Landry residents die younger and are more likely to smoke, be overweight and have a sexually-transmited disease.
The parish also falls toward the bottom for social economic factors. It has the highest poverty rate among children in Acadiana and the median household income is nearly $10,000 below the state average.
Specifically, St. Landry Parish ranks 58th for mortality with the highest death rate in Acadiana.
The parish ranks 52nd for mobility with 25% of adults reporting poor or fair health. That's compared to 10 percent nationally and 20 percent statewide. St. Landry is tied with Evangeline and Iberia Parishes.
St. Landry also ranks 62nd out of 64 for health behaviors like smoking, obesity, lack of physical activity and sexually transmitted infections.
To see all the different categories and to find out where your parish falls, click here.