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Health Care Reform To Bring Jobs To WV

September 15, 2010

CHARLESTON, W. Va. - A new study estimates that when health care reform is fully in place in four years, it will mean nearly 5,000 additional jobs for West Virginia. Ellen-Marie Whelan, associate director of health policy at the Center For American Progress looked at expanding the nation's community health centers to provide primary care to the now uninsured. She says in West Virginia the clinics will have about three times the job impact they have now, and that growth also means buying more from local businesses.

"The folks who are actually serving patients, which is the doctors and nurses, as well as new jobs in the neighborhood as a result of these community health centers expanding and needing to purchase more services."

Eight thousand community health center sites already provide care to underserved areas, treating patients regardless of ability to pay. Craig Robinson, executive director of Cabin Creek Health Systems, says most of the clinics will have to hire more people to gear up for 2014, in part because they will have a broader health care role.

"Not only physicians but behavioral health providers, pharmacists, nurses and nurse practitioners, health care coordinators, care managers, people who can follow up."

Community health centers received federal money for facilities and equipment under last year's economic stimulus. Robinson says they spent their stimulus money remodeling a building.

Keeping more people healthy should be better for the economy. Whelan says they didn't try to measure that, but it makes sense.

"Since you don't have to go to an ER, you're not hospitalized, you're able to stay and work longer so you're more productive. And those kinds of measurements are just harder, but we can imagine that's exactly what's gonna happen."

Critics of health care reform say it will mean much more government spending. But Whelan argues since primary care is more efficient, over the long term, the cost to the government will go down.

The CAP's report can be found on their website: www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/08/community_health_centers.html.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV