Obamacare Creates ‘Upheaval’ At Free Clinics
WHEELING, W.Va. – Without insurance, Pam Milliken relied for years on the free health clinic here to help manage her arthritis, high blood pressure and diabetes. When she needed to have her gallbladder removed, the clinic, located in a former State Farm Insurance building, found her a specialist and hospital willing to do the surgery at no cost.
This year, Milliken was among the 70 percent of patients at Wheeling Health Right Center who enrolled in Medicaid after the state expanded the program under the Affordable Care Act.
Worried that patients like Milliken would leave their care and struggle to find doctors accepting new Medicaid patients, the clinic took a rather radical step: It became a Medicaid provider and started billing the state-federal health insurance program for the poor.
On a recent weekday, Milliken, 55, who makes salads at a local truck stop restaurant, was getting a checkup and X-rays at the clinic, which now requires a $2 Medicaid co-pay. “I’ve been with these people for years and they know me better than anyone,” Milliken said, explaining why she chose to keep coming to the clinic.