We all need good health care, but too many Americans don’t get it, and a big part of the reason is its crippling expense: Despite strong employment, the number of people without health insurance has grown under President Trump, to 27.5 million in 2018. And even for those who have insurance, high deductibles and limited coverage can discourage people from seeking the care they need, and health emergencies can be disastrous: A recent study found that more than half a million families declare bankruptcy each year due to medical bills they can’t pay.
Our area, of course, isn’t immune to these problems (see the recent scandal over UVA suing patients for unpaid bills). But the state legislature’s 2018 decision to extend Medicaid coverage is already making a big impact. And here in Charlottesville, plenty of people and organizations—including at UVA—have stepped up to help those at risk of falling through the cracks. This week, for our annual health issue, we look at local efforts to extend care to some of our most underserved residents.
That includes everyone from new moms (with physical therapy that should be routine, but isn’t) to new arrivals (with a UVA family medicine clinic designed for refugees). The Charlottesville Free Clinic tackles a significant health care gap, providing free services to those who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to afford health insurance. The Women’s Initiative offers free mental health care. And a new clinic at The Haven brings walk-in treatment to people experiencing homelessness.
Like the Habitat for Humanity program we write about this week, these efforts speak to our community’s generosity, and they make a huge difference for the people they reach. But they also make clear that our health care system, like our housing system, is in dire need of repair. Help is always welcome, but there’s no substitute for systemic change.