Chester County has more than 40,000 residents without health insurance.
Now, uninsured folks in the semi-rural southwest corner of the county have an option for getting their checkups and screenings.
Grassroots health care provider La Comunidad Hispana will officially open its second federally qualified health center at 301 N. Third St. in Oxford Borough Wednesday.
Previously, some in the area had to travel more than 20 miles to get to the nearest clinic that would accept patients regardless of insurance coverage, according to Alisa Jones, president and CEO of La Comunidad Hispana.
“Our mission is to serve the underserved,” said Jones. “So all of our services are available on a sliding fee, and if folks simply don’t have any money, we still provide the service.”
Barriers: Language and transportation
In rural parts of the county, which spans some 760 square miles, those without insurance often face barriers from unreliable transportation to inflexible work schedules to make the trek to see a doctor willing to take them on as patients.
Kim Bowman, director of human services for Chester County, said transportation issues exacerbate already thin coverage.
“Because it’s a rural area, there is not the same volume of providers necessarily ,and there they are they’re hard to get to,” she said.
The Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Providers lists only two federally qualified health centers in Chester County, including one run by La Comunidad Hispana in Kennett Square. The designated centers receive federal dollars to target health services in underserved and low-income areas. A county directory shows six “community” health clinics.
Another ongoing concern, said Bowman, is providing health and human services to the county’s growing Spanish-speaking population. Oxford is about a third Hispanic, while Avondale and Kennett Square are around 60 and 50 percent Hispanic respectively. Undocumented immigrants have scant access to health care or insurance, while immigrants with visas have more options for federal aid.
Opened in 1973, La Comunidad Hispana started to help the area’s many Hispanic families and farmworkers — and continues to cater to them.
“All of our services — 100 percent — are provided in English and in Spanish so folks can communicate in their language of origin,” said Jones. Bowman credits La Comunidad Hispana’s outreach to Spanish-speakers in a number of areas, from insurance counseling to mental health services.
Jones said while the Oxford clinic will offer mental health and primary health care, for many clients getting a specialist, say a cardiologist or a dentist, will remain a stretch.