Blog: My letter to Representative Miller’s Office on Healthcare in WV

To Emily Henn
Senior Policy Advisor
Congresswoman Carol D. Miller
465 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515
emily.henn@mail.house.gov 

 

Dear Emily,

Thank you so much for meeting with our Healthcare For All West Virginia team on Tuesday, June 27th, represented by myself and our volunteer Mindy Salango, in your DC offices. Most especially, thank you for listening to our concerns as fellow West Virginians passionate about healthcare issues and relaying them to Representative Miller.

I may not have mentioned it, but our Healthcare for All West Virginia campaign is led by a coalition of state-wide organizations devoted to helping amplify West Virginia voices and connecting them with lawmakers, so that together we can work to improve equitable access to affordable healthcare. I invite you to visit http://www.youtube.com/@hc4awv to listen to some powerful healthcare stories from real West Virginians having challenges getting the care they need.

Would you pass on to Rep. Miller our deep appreciation and thanks for her healthcare work to bring funding to the Mountain Health Network and the Community Education Group in West Virginia? These programs help so many with support, training, recovery, and more. That’s some wonderful work they are doing, and your office is helping to make that work happen.

I believe  that we all want the same thing, for the people of West Virginia,  and the United States, the richest country in the world, to have good healthcare. It is one of the biggest struggles that people in our country face. So many suffer and sometimes die for lack of it. As we shared in our meeting, the leading cause of bankruptcies (1, 2) and foreclosures (1) are due to medical related debt. We can do better. We must.

To review, we are asking Rep. Miller to support a national copay cap on insulin for commercial insurance. As Mindy shared, with private insurance, her insulin copay was more than her mortgage. For a year, she was forced to ration, missing as much as a week of injections due to the high cost. As a Type 1 diabetic, missing more than 48 hours is deadly. Missing a week and still being alive is, quite frankly, a miracle. But, she now has diabetic retinopathy due to that year of rationing. There is no reason, other than unchecked greed, for insulin costs to be so high, especially since the original patent was made essentially free to the public a century ago. Reasonable profit margins are good and are part of building a strong economy. But the current rates are so high it falls well within the definition of profiteering, and on the backs of hardworking diabetic Americans.

We are also asking her to hold private insurance companies accountable. First, for exploiting Medicare Advantage programs and draining the Medicare Trust Fund with overcharges in order to line the pockets of CEO’s and shareholders. And, Second, for denying & delaying rightful claims as a way to increase profit margins, to the tune of more than $260 billion annually (1, 2, 3). This is unethical, predatory, greedy and just downright criminal, especially considering how life threatening it is to those whose treatments were denied (1, 2), let alone those that lose their homes because expensive treatments are denied after the fact.

Our big ask is for Rep. Miller to tell the Department of Health and Human Services to (1) continue to crack down on fraud and overcharging by private insurers including in Medicare Advantage plans, (2) publicly report claims denial data, and (3) increase enforcement actions against bad plans. In claims denials reporting, we ask that it require inclusion of rates of each insurer by market, state, geography, gender, and race, and breakdowns of denials by type of claim and cost. This would provide necessary data for catching predatory practices.

Furthermore, we ask that Rep. Miller help protect, improve and expand Medicaid through increased funding and enforcing regulations. Our WV Navigator program is wonderful. I’ve personally seen them help people connect with the ACA or Medicaid and gain needed healthcare coverage they didn’t have before. We need more funding for this work, especially as thousands are due to fall off Medicaid by the end of this month. Healthy people work and are more productive members of society. Please listen to Alex and Jude’s stories at http://www.youtube.com/@hc4awv. And, for people to be healthy and employable, we need to create a standard for all Medicaid programs to provide comprehensive dental and vision coverage. West Virginia is leading the way in dental coverage with a $1,000 Medicaid benefit, and we hope to increase this to $2,000 next year. 

As I type this message, I’m in the waiting room at my Dad’s dentist and he is getting emergency root canal surgery. He’s on massive antibiotics and he couldn’t drive because of how ill he felt. Infections around your teeth can become deadly due to close proximity to the brain, lungs and heart. Increasing coverage to pay for emergency treatments as well as health maintenance means people will be better able to work, to care for their families, to volunteer, and vote.

Additional asks are for support of future legislation to improve Medicare by lowering out of pocket expenses and expanding coverage to include dental and vision care, support or co-sponsorship of the Safe Step Act, support or co-sponsorship of the Reentry Act, and support of the Pharmacy Benefit Managers Transparency Act and others that seek to create transparency and accountability with PBM’s and protect independently owned local pharmacies from their predatory practices.

Thank you again for your hospitality and for your ear, Emily. I look forward to seeing you both in Huntington sometime soon! We’ll be at the July 28th 9th St. Live event, hosting a booth and inviting more West Virginians to raise their voices and share their stories. I’ll make sure to share new videos as they come available.

 

Sincerely,

Eve Marcum-Atkinson
Programs Director and Administrator
West Virginia Citizen Action Education Fund
1500 Dixie St.
Charleston, WV 25311
eve@wvcag.org

 

“I am a Huntington resident, covered by my spouse’s PEIA and we’re now paying more for that. I’ve several chronic health conditions, and am newly diagnosed with diabetes. I’m able to work full-time because of the medical care I receive, and we pay thousands of dollars a year out-of-pocket for my medications and treatment copays, and some additional necessary care that isn’t covered at all. If I get sicker, I won’t be able to work as much, which means we’ll not be able to afford much of my care, which means I’ll get too sick to work and without any extra income, I’ll likely become disabled. And I’m insured working full-time. Others aren’t nearly as lucky and have already fallen off of Medicaid, through the cracks, and don’t have the stamina or health needed to fight with the system to get what they need. 

Wouldn’t it just be better to help people stay healthy so that they can support themselves and be a productive part of their community? We can do better. We must do better. People’s lives depend on it.”Eve Marcum-Atkinson

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