August 6, 2018
It can be hard for patients in rural areas to connect with health care. So AHIP member health plans turned out to support a rural health clinic in Southwestern Virginia. Co-sponsored by the Health Wagon and Remote Area Medical (RAM), the 19th Annual Health Wagon/RAM Wise Clinic occurs each July at the county fairgrounds in Wise, Va., a mountainous area located where Virginia meets Kentucky and Tennessee.
From July 19-22, hundreds of doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, and medical students from all over Virginia and beyond volunteered their time to provide free medical, dental, and vision services to more than 1,300 people. Patients began arriving on Thursday evening, with many sleeping in their cars at the fairgrounds to get a place in line when the clinic opened Friday at 5 a.m. For many in attendance, this event is their once-a-year opportunity to see a doctor or dentist.
Recognizing the health care needs of rural communities like Wise, AHIP members Anthem HealthKeepers, DentaQuest, and Magellan Health participated in the Health Wagon/RAM clinic event, engaging with clinic patients and providing their financial support for the event. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam visited the clinic on Saturday morning to talk with patients and volunteers. A pediatric neurologist, Gov. Northam has volunteered at the event in the past.
Virginia’s legislature recently voted to expand its Medicaid program beginning in 2019. While Medicaid expansion won’t eliminate the need for such clinics, more people having health coverage would help to attract additional providers to serve rural underserved communities like Wise.