The Times West Virginian

In Today's TWV

October 8, 2006

‘I had no way to buy medicine’

Many without health insurance are low-income people who work

FAIRMONT — Even though Larry Workman had been diagnosed with diabetes, he felt fine, and his job working for the state did not qualify him for health insurance benefits.

“I had no way to buy medicine,” he said. “I was making $6 an hour and I had two kids.”

So for nearly 10 years, Workman did not take the prescription that controlled his condition — until an event occurred that alerted him to the fact that everything was not all right.

Blood vessels in his eyes burst, and he began to lose his sight.

“It finally got bad enough that I couldn’t work, so I went to the doctor,” he said. “They claim that it was all diabetic problems.”

A hospital turned him away because of his lack of insurance, he said, but gave him the name of Milan Puskar Health Right in Morgantown, where he could get free check-ups and medicine.

Laura Jones, now Health Right’s executive director, eventually helped Workman get disability payments and Supplemental Security Income, which qualifies him for a medical card.

But the damage already had been done. Now legally blind, Workman has moved in with his mother in Exchange, Braxton County, and spends his days listening to the news and hoping his children, ages 14 and 15, will have a brighter future.

“I just have to get these kids (grown) up so they can take care of themselves,” Workman said. “That’s all I want out of life.”

As a Braxton County resident living in West Virginia, the chances of Workman having health insurance are less than citizens in most other counties and many other states.

According to data gathered in 2001 by the West Virginia Institute for Health Policy Research in Charleston, of the state’s 55 counties, Braxton County has the third highest percentage of residents who do not have health insurance, at 29.5 percent.

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