Business, Healthcare Groups Band Together to Promote West Virginia Health Care Reform

October 02, 2008 - Charleston Daily Mail
By Cheryl Caswell

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A group of businesses and healthcare groups are joining forces to help make health care more accessible and affordable in West Virginia.

West Virginians' Campaign for a Healthy Future planned to unveil its initiatives, goals and standards this morning at a press conference. It also was releasing results of a recent poll showing a majority of state voters say they have serious concerns about paying for, and finding, proper medical care.

George Manahan, the campaign's executive director, said, "We've come together to encourage government and the Legislature to come up with a healthcare reform plan for West Virginia.

"Some of these groups are often at opposite ends, but here is an opportunity for all of them to work together and maybe we can accomplish something," Manahan said.

"The governor has made the statement that during his second term he wants to see that every West Virginian has health care, so there's really an opportunity to look at reform," he said.

A poll conducted by the group in August revealed that 88 percent of state residents want changes that would guarantee access to health care coverage to all West Virginians.

Among other key findings, 60 percent rate the state's health care system as not so good or poor and 45 percent say they are very worried about having to pay more for health care. Forty percent are very worried they won't be able to pay medical bills for serious injury. One in three low-income residents has not gone to the doctor because of cost in the past year, and one in five state residents has not gone because there was no physician available in their area.

Jeffery Pollack, with Global Strategies Group, was to be on hand at the press conference this morning to announce the poll results. Pollack said 625 registered voters were polled.

He said, "No doubt there's an overwhelming feeling that something has to be done. We don't usually get results with numbers like 88 percent and 60 percent."

Pollack said he was surprised to see how many people said no physician was available at all.

"That was a shocking number," he said. "And in some places we found it to be higher - 30 percent."

Pollack said West Virginians recognize their health care crisis and the part their personal habits play. He said 84 percent responded that too many residents are overweight and don't take good care of themselves.

Manahan said campaign organizers will take the poll results to legislators and the governor to help shape a new health care plan.

"It's going to be a multi-year effort," Manahan acknowledged. "Basically, we're going to look at what the governor proposes and match it to our standards, and ask for more or support the legislature in what they propose."

The coalition's standards for health care reform include access to high quality and affordable health care and coverage for all state residents regardless of age, income, geography or income status and a health care system founded on wellness, prevention and chronic disease management.

Financing such a plan should be a combined responsibility of individuals, businesses and government, according to the coalition.

More than 30 organizations have joined the Campaign for a Healthy Future. To learn more go to www.wvhealthyfuture.com.

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