West Virginia Senate Seeks to Bring $8 Million in Free Healthcare to Poor West Virginians

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Charleston, WV — The West Virginia Senate took huge strides today in improving access to quality health care for thousands of low income residents with the passage of the West Virginia Medical Practice Act (SB 4), bringing with it the potential for more than 14,000 visits and $8 million in donated care.

Senate Bill (SB) 4 is a bi-partisan bill led by Senator Ed Gaunch and it establishes special volunteer medical licenses for retired/retiring health care professionals to donate their time and skills to serve indigent and low income patients from their own offices but under the existing liability protections of the state’s free clinics. This legislation will allow for broader access by West Virginians, especially those in the more rural reaches of our state, to free medical care.

Any medical professional with a license in good standing may participate in the program including nurses, dentists, dental hygenists, physician assistants, and optometrists, among others.

“I want to thank my colleagues for their support of this bill and call on the House to quickly pass this important legislation,” Senator Gaunch said. “Not only will this legislation extend the reach of our healthcare community to provide over $8 million in free healthcare to our state’s poorest citizens annually, it will also clear the way for our state to accept donated care in times of crisis from our friends in the medical community outside the state.”

SB4 also permits out-of-state medical professionals in good standing who wish to offer care to West Virginians in times of emergency to do so with a seven-day practitioners license.

“It was heartbreaking to find out that West Virginia had to turn away medical professionals who wanted to donate emergency care from other states during last year’s flood recovery because we didn’t have a way to quickly and temporarily license doctors, nurses, dentists and other caregivers who wanted to serve our people in our time of extraordinary need,” Gaunch said.

In addition, SB 4 creates special volunteer licenses for retired/retiring medical professionals under the same parameters and requirements.

The Foundation for Government Accountability thanks Senator Gaunch for his leadership and his co-sponsors, senators Trump, Boso, Blair, Rucker, Jeffries, Stollings, Woelfel, and Sypolt, for their hard work.

The next step is passage in the House where companion legislation, HB 2692, is sponsored by Delegate John D. O’Neal. To learn more about SB4, click here. For more information on Volunteer Care, click here.

The Foundation for Government Accountability is a nonprofit, multistate think tank that specializes in health care, welfare, and regulatory reform. To learn more, visit TheFGA.org.

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