Longtime Whitesburg doctor, winner of national honor, fears patients will lose Affordable Care Act’s preventive care

Dr. Van Breeding (Lexington Herald-Leader photo)

Whitesburg physician Dr. Van Breeding says his patients got “bamboozled” by politicians who tagged their expanded access to health care as “Obamacare.”

Barack Obama, who was anti-coal, is deeply unpopular in coal-friendly Appalachian towns like Whitesburg; thus, any program bearing his name was doomed to suffer the same fate, Breeding told Cheryl Truman of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Breeding, a primary-care physician and clinical director at Mountain Comprehensive Health Corp., was named the 2017 Staff Care Country Doctor of the Year. The Texas-based medical staffing company began awarding the honor in 1992. Breeding is the first Kentuckian to receive the award since 1997, when Claire Louise Caudill of Morehead was awarded the title, Truman notes.

“He takes care of patients from birth to death, from hospital to nursing home,” Truman writes. “He is a bit suspicious of ‘hospitalists,’ because who can take care of you better than the doctor who knows you, your family, your family tree and the ailments that have befallen your kin?”

Breeding, a Letcher County native, got his degrees from the University of Kentucky and was a medical resident there, but he told Truman always knew he wanted to return home to practice medicine. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act brought more patients to Breeding and the clinics at which he works.

“We got insurance to patients who have never had care before,” Breeding told Truman.

Now Breeding fears his patients will lose that insurance. President Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to repeal the ACA as one of his first orders of business, and Republicans are formulating options for a replacement. Compare some of the proposals here.

The 2010 reform law provided opportunities for free preventive care, to which some of Breeding’s patients had never had access before Kentucky expanded Medicaid under the law in 2014.

“In Eastern and southeastern Kentucky, getting patients in for early screenings is crucial,” Truman writes. “The area has high rates of breast, uterine, ovarian and colon cancers, and patients benefit from early detection.”

Breeding, 55, sympathizes with patients who struggle to stretch money until the end of the month, “so he tries to schedule appointments earlier in the month, when patients can buy gas to get to the clinic,” Truman writes. “His patients can’t take a bus, like Lexington patients, and a filled gas tank is required to get just about anywhere in the mountains.”

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