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Dr. Carter is the sole physician in Autaugaville, a town of about 850 residents in rural Alabama. Autaugaville is Dr. Carter’s hometown and he knew when he started practicing medicine that he wanted to return to where he grew up to build his practice.
Dr. Carter knows that his patients are working hard. Many work 40 hours per week or more, but do not make enough money to buy health insurance and don’t qualify for Medicaid because Alabama hasn’t expanded its program. “When you work that hard but you’re making $18,000 a year and then you’re short the $400 a month for insurance – I mean, that’s frustrating and saddening and distasteful all at the same time because that kind of gap makes it almost impossible to come see me for preventive care. And that’s what really matters is keeping you well instead of having you sick and missing work,” he said.
When people have access to health insurance, it allows them to see their primary care physician before they get sick. “Preventive care is the epitome of what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s what I want to do,” Dr. Carter said. Unfortunately, because of the lack of access to affordable, quality health coverage he often sees people when they are incredibly sick, instead of earlier when he could have prevented their condition from worsening.
If Alabama expanded its Medicaid program, more people would have access to health insurance. “It would change a lot of things,” Dr. Carter said. “It would allow more people go to the doctor. It would allow more people to get the medicines that they need. It would allow people in offices like mine to be able to flourish and take care of all those people.”
Want to see more of Dr. Carter’s story? Watch On the Edge: Health Care in Alabama, a short film featuring community members and health professionals from across North Carolina sharing their challenges and triumphs as they strive to take care of themselves, their families, and their communities.