Gov. Terry McAuliffe, along with Attorney General Mark Herring and Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel, visited the Remote Area Medical (RAM) Clinic in Wise County Fairgrounds to volunteer as needed and talk with patients.
RAM is an annual pop-up clinic that serves around 3,000 people over the course of three days with the help of hundreds of volunteer dentists, doctors and other health-care providers. Virginians come to RAM for free health-care services that are not covered by their insurance and cannot afford on their own, according to The Washington Post.
The governor’s visit came as he is trying to determine how he can use his executive authority to expand Medicaid, since the General Assembly recently passed a state budget without any expansion. In addition to helping around the clinic, he spoke with many patients, emphasizing that he was working very hard to expand Medicaid. He also encouraged them to pressure their state delegates to support expansion, according to the Times Dispatch.
“When you talk to these folks and they’ve been here [waiting] for 30 hours to get care one day a year, that is not how you do health care in this country and it’s clearly not how we should be doing it in the commonwealth of Virginia,” said McAuliffe. “We need preventative care, and we need to get folks care before they have problems. What happens today in Virginia is that many of these folks here, their family doctor is the emergency room, and we are paying many, many times more the cost. If we would do the morally, socially, financially right thing, we would not see this RAM facility the way it is here today.”
Many of the patients at RAM would be covered under the expanded Medicaid. On the first day of the three-day clinic, the line was 1,500 people long by 4 a.m. Organizers had to start turning patients away. Hundreds of people come to the clinic to get all of their teeth pulled, since many of them have never had dental care before. While an expanded Medicaid would not fully resolve this issue since it does not cover routine dental care, it would provide emergency tooth extractions so that patients would not have to wait a year to get a tooth pulled.