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



Health Right was founded 22 years ago, and Puskar’s name was added a few years ago to honor the pharmaceutical manufacturer’s donations of “millions of dollars of free medications” to the clinic, Jones said.

Patients who receive free check-ups and medications from Health Right must be uninsured and no more than 150 percent above the poverty level for their size family.

But even if someone qualifies, Health Right has a waiting list of nearly 200 people.

“We have to have more volunteer physicians,” Jones said.

If Workman had found Health Right 10 years ago, his life might have turned out differently. But even if he had qualified for care and made his way through the waiting list, Morgantown is about a two-hour drive for Workman. Seeking treatment at Health Right would have killed an entire day of work.

Elaine Arkin, special communications officer for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the group that cites West Virginia as the state with the highest number of uninsured residents who do not seek health care, noted some of the reasons for that.

One of them is a person’s inability to take off from work in order to get medical care, “particularly when they have to seek health care in an emergency room where there is a long wait,” Arkin said. “And uninsured people also tell us if they are sick and they know they will need a prescription they can’t afford, ‘Why should I go see a doctor when I know I won’t be able to fill a prescription they give me?’”

Also, rural areas might lack a clinic or even an emergency room where someone could seek treatment.

“Fortunately, there are a lot of places in this country where there are community health centers that do an excellent job of providing care to people who are uninsured as well as those who are insured,” Arkin said. “But they are not geographically distributed across the country.”

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