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With Medicaid numbers up, free clinic use down

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — The deadline for West Virginians to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act passed in March, and a few health care providers are starting to see the effects.

Jim Harris, director of Health Access in Clarksburg, said the biggest impact was the expansion of Medicaid in West Virginia. The free clinic has seen a reduction in the number of patients who are coming to the free side of the clinic because of Medicaid.

“People are getting the state health insurance because they raised the income level. We are seeing a decrease in number of patients overall coming to the clinic,” he said.

According to patients, Harris said many who have received health insurance are struggling to find a doctor who is included in their plan. One of the big disconnects he has seen is “getting a card doesn’t mean you have access to any doctor.”

Health Access is currently in the process of becoming a Medicaid provider, Harris said. Many of their previous patients who now have Medicaid would be able to come back to the clinic and receive the same level of care.

The other side Harris said he has seen: Patients who aren’t eligible for Medicaid, but still cannot afford private health insurance.

“The issue in West Virginia is there’s only one vendor who’s selling insurance, and the lowest premium is unaffordable for many people,” he said.

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