Retain Health Right Funding

For various reasons, some low-income West Virginians still fall through the health care cracks. They are too poor to afford care on their own, yet do not qualify for insurance programs such as Medicaid.

Thousands of people and families in our area have nowhere to turn when they are ill or injured. Nowhere except Wheeling Health Right, that is.

Health Right and eight similar clinics in other regions of the state provide medical care to an enormous number of people. Wheeling Health Right Executive Director Kathie Brown estimates her agency alone serves nearly 20,000 men, women and children.

Because so many health care professionals in our area volunteer their time and expertise, Wheeling Health Care is able to subsist on an annual budget of $1.2 million. A substantial portion of that comes from state government.

There is some question about whether state legislators and Gov. Jim Justice will continue funding health right operations at the current level of $2.75 million per year.

That concern is understandable. State officials are looking for ways to deal with a substantial budget shortfall. Major cuts in some programs, including eliminating some altogether, have been suggested.

Local Health Right officials say they are receiving a gratifying amount of support from legislators, both Democrat and Republican. They hope to get Justice on the record in support, too.

Indeed, state agencies may have to cut back on or eliminate some programs. But erasing support of health right clinics would be a disservice to the tens of thousands of West Virginians who would be at a loss for health care without the clinics.

Less than $3 million a year in state funding is a very small price to pay for a true health care safety net. Surely Justice and lawmakers can find a way to balance the budget that does not do as much very real harm to so many as turning the state’s back on health right clinics.