Healthcare forum offered information

Upshur Indivisible Votes sponsored a forum at West Virginia Wesleyan College on Monday, April 23, which was open to the public. They had invited five guests with unique perspectives on healthcare. I would like to let you know some of these issues in case you were unable to attend.

Rodney Wright of DHHR made a clear stance that he was not present to promote any political viewpoint, but that he wanted to be transparent about the process by which people apply for and receive Medicaid. The Medicaid expansion meant that approximately 200,000 new clients were served by Medicaid and CHIP. This was handled very well by Mr. Wright’s agency, according to other panelists.

Lisa Diehl of West Virginia for Affordable Healthcare elaborated on the effects of the Medicaid Expansion. She emphasized that the first step towards better healthcare here in the Mountain State began with the Affordable Care Act. The benefits of preventative care, begun with the additional numbers of insured persons under ACA, were enhanced with the addition of this vast number of Medicaid expansion patients. Before the expansion, these adult patients were simply not eligible for the kind of care which improves the likelihood of quick and inexpensive treatments. Instead they would delay care until an emergency arose, both reducing effectiveness of treatment and dramatically increasing its cost. Today it is easy for adults to enroll, even online.

Brittany Barlett of the American Federation of Teachers spoke about the effects of changes in PEIA for state employees and how changes in its approach to healthcare contributed to the teacher walkout earlier this year. PEIA began with an assumption that it could quantify the ways in which its participants contributed to their own good health. The system they developed was difficult to understand and also trampled on personal rights of the insured. Public employees had accepted low pay, since they believed that serving the state meant good benefits, including quality healthcare. This promise, made by legislators of the past, was broken by current members of the legislature. Although the walkout resulted in a raise, this did not address the healthcare issues. Currently, meetings in 19 locations are being set up so that state employees will be able to directly address PEIA concerns.

Alisa Clements of Planned Parenthood wanted to stress the many services that the organization provides in West Virginia. In addition to family planning, their clinic is also available for other issues related to reproductive health, such as testing for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and Hepatitis C as well as syphilis, chlamydia, and so on. Although their focus is on women’s health, testing services are also available to men. Alisa and other panelists also discussed Amendment 1, which will be on the ballot in November. This is a simply worded proposal which would allow no right to an abortion in West Virginia should the federal mandate for Roe v. Wade be overturned, A yes vote says that a person does not believe any woman has a right to an abortion. This would include women whose life may be in danger if the pregnancy progresses or in cases of rape or incest. A no vote says that there may be cases in which a woman’s right to an abortion should be protected.

Finally, Matt Kerner spoke as the head of Opportunity House, Inc. Most locals know that they provide residential services for recovering addicts, and they also offer some home-based treatment options. All of the panelists agreed that addiction is one of the most important, if not the most important healthcare concern in West Virginia today. Mr. Kerner spoke about the need to focus on the addiction and not on the substances to which one is addicted. He says that leads to a model where addicts are moved into the criminal justice system, breaking up families and not leading to healthy communities in the future.

This healthcare forum taught me a lot about the needs of our fellow citizens in the Mountain State. Be aware of the stances your local and state candidates take regarding healthcare. And, of course, be sure to vote according to their commitment to the people of West Virginia and our health.

Julia Brady