A United Nations envoy visited West Virginia on a two-week tour of the United States. Professor Philip Alston and his team are tasked with breaking down the biggest factors impacting health and poverty in America. It's no small taks, but it's one he got a better handle on after touring a free clinic in Charleston and sitting down with West Virginia health leaders.
The United Nations representatives listened and learned, but also asked tough questions. They wanted to know what West Virginia is doing that works, and what barriers still need to be broken down.
Touring West Virginia Health Right, the UN envoy got to see first hand where 21,000 West Virginian's are cared for each year.
"And every year is a constant battle- are we going to make it next year? Angie Settle, CEO of West Virginia Health Right explained in a roundtable discussion.
Settle said a third of their budget comes from the state, the other two-thirds from grants and fundraising. The clinic takes those who fall through the cracks.
"The bottom line is to make sure these patients have the medications that they need everyday to stay healthy and working. That's our goal, to help working poor people," Settled added.
94% of adults and 97% of kids in the state have some sort of health care but the clinic often sees families with coverage that's too expensive to use, even as subsidies are available to try to lower those costs.
"Especially the working poor who may be considering themselves effectively uncovered because of the high deductible issues," Dr. Raul Gupta, Commissioner of the WV DHHR explained.
The UN envoy applauded the clinic's work, and the DHHR for getting so many people covered. But if Obamacare is repealed, Settle said that progress would be wiped out.
"Suddenly my clinic that's busting at the seam.. everybody that falls off medicaid is going to turn to us for care because we're the safety net provider," Settled added.
So Alston asked if the state could be doing more.
"What's the state doing in it's basic obligations to a citizenry to provide a reasonable array of health services. And this seems to be highlighting that there's a fairly big gap," Professor Philip Alston noted.
Alston also visited Alabama, Georgia, California and Puerto Rico. He will give a preliminary report to the state department Friday, and a full report to the UN next June.
His findings could prompt policies, funding, and changes here in West Virginia and across the country.
CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK)