FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Health care issues are at the forefront for Rep. David McKinley’s campaign, targeting the opioid epidemic the Mountain State has seen grow exponentially since he first took office in 2011.
McKinley is speaking on those issues in communities throughout the state, most recently at a “Lunch and Learn” event in Fairmont.
“I’m going to fight for rural America, rural states like West Virginia that we get our money to help out because this drug problem is in West Virginia just as much as it is in California or New York,” McKinley said.
McKinley said the state of West Virginia, which he calls the epicenter of the drug epidemic, has not received a fair share of funding to provide the needed treatment. However, he said there’s new legislation that could make that happen.
“Washington has to understand, there are problems in rural states like West Virginia, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Ohio that have desperate needs and we have to meet them,” McKinley said. “We’ve got some funds that we’re going to do this, and we’re also putting more money in the National Institute of Health to come out with alternatives for medicine.”
In moving forward to combat the opioid epidemic, McKinley said there are a numerous questions that need answered.
“There’s not going to be one solution. We’re going to have 25 pieces of legislation to address each component of the opioid epidemic, and we’re going to wrap them into one piece of legislation,” he said. “There are a whole host of issues of what are we going to do about training our doctors? What about the amount of medicine they can prescribe? What about finding drugs that are not addictive? But to me what’s important on the opioid problem is how do we get the resources to come to West Virginia?”
Part of the battle, McKinley said, is the 340B Drug Discount Program, which Congress is attempting to change with legislation that hit the floor just last week.
“The insurance companies are making a lot of money and the big pharmaceuticals are making a lot of money,” he said. “Who are they going to take it out on? They want to hurt the hospitals and small families that are struggling with this. We’ve got to stop it. If we go back to the plan that’s been on the books for 20-some years, things will be fine.”
McKinley’s worry is that amending or doing away with the 340B program would hurt West Virginia’s hospitals.
“Rural hospitals across America are getting short changed, and that’s got to stop because if we can’t get our health care because our hospitals are closing,” he said. “WVU is going to lose $10 million if this program goes away. Another hospital in West Virginia is going to lose $2 million. If you’re a hospital in West Virginia and lose $2 million, what are you going to do? You’re going to cut back on services. If you cut back on services, that means that people are not going to get the health care advantages that they’re entitled to.”
While WVUMedicine makes up a large portion of facilities in the Mountain State, McKinley said the effects will be even greater on the rural, critical-access hospitals.
“They don’t have critical access hospitals in Chicago and Los Angeles and New York, but one-third of the hospitals in West Virginia are critical access hospitals,” he said. “Yet, there are people in Washington who want to take money away from critical access hospitals. Come back to West Virginia and walk the miles with us to find out what it would be like if you didn’t have a hospital 30 miles away.”