Governor Northam talks healthcare in Lynchburg

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) With the shake of a hand and a casual introduction, “Kimberly? I'm Ralph....Northam.” Governor Ralph Northam was invited into the world of health care in Lynchburg.

Northam brought his efforts to expand healthcare to Lynchburg today. He visited two health centers, Johnson Health Center and the Fifth Street Community Health Center, that serve a majority of patients who are uninsured or underinsured.

“Here in Central Virginia there are over 17,000 low income adults who do not have access to health insurance,” said Christina Delzingaro, CEO for Free Clinic and Community Access Network.

It’s a world that presents some challenges.

“There is a lot of unmet need in this area. And that’s part of the reason why Johnson has been so passionate to expanding access to care,” said Gary Campbell, CEO of Johnson Health Center.

Northam met the teams at both of the facilities. His mission?

“To advocate for an individual’s access to healthcare,” said Northam.

The leaders at each center wanted to make sure he knew what Medicaid expansion would mean for them.

Right now, about 57 percent of patients with the Community Access Network are uninsured.

“So a Medicaid expansion, drawing down those federal dollars would provide health insurance almost immediately to those individuals,” said Delzingaro.

About 16 percent of patients at Johnson are uninsured.

Fantasia Lane was in the lobby of the center during the visit. She shared with Northam that she's expecting and she said health care is important.

“I do have family members that haven't been covered by insurance. My mom she has lupus and it was really hard to see her go through that and her not be able to get the medication she needs,” said Lane.

Northam heard concerns and shared his plans, which he hopes will include Medicaid expansion in the near future.

“I'm optimistic,” said Northam. “We still have a little work to do, but I think we're heading in a positive direction.”

Northam says it has been a five year effort to expand Medicaid in Virginia. He says he wants to see a budget come out of Richmond in the next two weeks with expansion included.