Wheeling Health Right patients qualifying for Medicaid won't have to change medical providers, as Health Right now can bill Medicaid for services they provide.
Many long-time Health Right patients were deemed eligible for Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, but these patients also learned they must move their medical care from Health Right's free clinic to a Medicaid provider.
Wheeling Health Right now has received its Medicaid billing number, and the change makes Health Right a hybrid clinic certified to accept both those without insurance and those qualifying for expanded Medicaid coverage under the new health care law, according to Kathie Brown, executive director of Wheeling Health Right.
"This is a huge plus," she said. "We are now able to accept Medicaid patients, and we continue to see those who can't find providers. We are finding that even though a patient qualifies for expanded Medicaid, they often can't find a provider - or there isn't time for them to find one. This is a plus for those who stay with us. We can treat them."
In the past, when Health Right referred a patient to a hospital or a specialty physician for treatment, these medical providers received no compensation, according to Brown. Now the hospital and doctors will get paid after caring for Health Right's Medicaid patients.
"It's not a lot of money, but it's better than doing it for free," she said.
Wheeling Health Right has about 20,000 patients coming from Brooke, Ohio, Marshall, Wetzel and Tyler counties in West Virginia, and Belmont County in Ohio. It is approved as a Level 3 medical home by the National Committee for Quality Assurance. The ranking means Health Right meets all federal criteria, and is considered at the upper levels for providing health care to patients, according to Brown.
"People feel safe here," she said. "This is their medical home, and for many it's been their medical home for years. They tell us, 'I want to stay here. I'm happy with my care.' There just are not enough providers to handle all those now eligible for Medicaid, and this is a huge step."