Meet Renate Pore, candidate for the West Virginia House of Delegates, 35th District (all of St. Albans, South Charleston, and Dunbar, most of South Hills and parts of Nitro and Kanawha City.)
Renate is a retired public employee, a mother and grandmother. For the past 20 years, she has led the fight to expand health care coverage for West Virginia’s families. Renate’s priority for West Virginia is investing in people through education and health care. A healthy and educated population is the foundation for addressing all other issues such as expanding the economy and growing the tax base.
Renate believes that all West Virginians should have quality, affordable health care and that means everyone must have affordable health insurance coverage. It is a priority for Renate to fight the opioid epidemic which is killing West Virginia’s young people. She will support large-scale efforts in prevention and treatment, and she will hold accountable those who have been flooding the state with opioids and making enormous profits from these deadly drugs.
Renate will fight to maintain funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid and make sure that PEIA is adequately funded for both active and retired employees. For the past 20 years, Renate has worked as an advocate for children and families. She organized the Healthy Kids and Families Coalition to expand eligibility for CHIP and promote it across the state.
She also worked with West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, the faith community and labor groups to expand Medicaid in West Virginia. Thanks to the work of Renate and others, almost all West Virginia children have health coverage, and low- income children have dental coverage through CHIP and Medicaid.
Renate believes that investment in public education is the key to a prospering economy in West Virginia.She supports long-term planning to adequately fund public education including pre-school. College should be made more affordable and there should be opportunities for free technical training in every part of the state. Economic development goes hand in hand with education and health care.
To create more and better jobs, she will support investment in renewable energy and work to expand broadband to every hill and holler.
Renate graduated West Virginia University with a PhD in History and has a Masters Degree in Public Health from the University of North Carolina. In 2014, Renate was chosen as national advocate of the year by Families USA, a national consumer health organization.
Renate was born in Germany where she lived until she was age 10 when she moved to the United States with her mother and step-father. She lived in Iowa, South Dakota, California and Oklahoma before finally settling in West Virginia and making it her forever home.
Post-War Germany was a difficult place to grow up. Until the US Congress rescued starving Germans with the Marshall Plan, Renate and her family often experienced hunger. In the United States, Renate’s family lived from paycheck to paycheck for many years. She understands the struggle of low and middle-income families to raise a family. Despite early hardships, Renate’s life in the United States is one of gratitude for the opportunities available to her and for the enormous generosity of Americans.
Renate was welcomed to her new American family in Iowa with open arms. Her teachers took special care to help her learn English. In South Dakota, a teacher invited Renate to her home every afternoon, gave her tea and cookies and tutored her in English. No one in Renate’s German or American family had ever gone to college. When she graduated from high school, Renate was lucky to live in California where tuition to public colleges was free. Renate was admitted to the University of California at Los Angeles and graduated without any of the college debt that plagues so many college graduates today.
Renate’s unusual circumstances and the generosity she experienced have shaped her values and politics. Renate believes every child should have the nurture and opportunities she had. She believes an investment in one is an investment in all. She wants an America that gives all children the opportunities she had.
A Career in Public Service
Renate studied to be a college professor of history. But life doesn’t always turn out the way you plan. After more than a year of looking for a teaching job, Renate was offered a job in the West Virginia Department of Public Health which she accepted, a decision that changed the direction of her life.
As a public health planner, Renate was responsible for developing the State’s Plan to combat cancer. This work took her around the state and put her in contact with West Virginia residents in all walks of life as cancer is a disease that does not recognize any status such as age, sex, race, educational level, or income. This experience opened her eyes to the problems in our health care system and nurtured a desire in her to be part of the solution.
In the 1980s, Renate worked on mental health reform and helped to create a plan to expand community mental health services. She later became the director of a rural community health center, which broadened her experience with health care on the front lines.
During the Caperton Administration, Renate was Director of the Governor’s Health Reform Commission where she learned about the political difficulties of reforming the health care system. This first experience with health reform helped Renate realize that everyone could agree that all children should have quality health care. With funding from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, she embarked on research and planning to improve health coverage for children. Her first project was with West Virginia Blue Cross Blue Shield to create a primary care program funded with volunteer donations.
When Congress passed the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in the late 1990s, Renate recognized it as the great opportunity she had been looking for to advance child health. In partnership with the West Virginia Council of Churches, she started the Healthy Kids Coalition to get the West Virginia Legislature to bring CHIP to West Virginia and to spread the word to get children enrolled.
It took a decade to fully expand CHIP to cover not only the children of the working poor but also to cover middle-income children including the children of many public employees in a health insurance program that provides them with great medical and dental coverage free or at modest premiums based on family income.
Along with Perry Bryant, Dr. Dan Foster, Dr. Jim Binder, Sam Hickman, Sally Richardson and others, Renate was one of the founders of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care (WVAHC). WVAHC continues its work to advance health care for all West Virginians.
With her work in health care advocacy, Renate was able to persuade national foundations, such as the Kellogg Foundation and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to invest millions of dollars in West Virginia to improve health care for West Virginians. Renate’s work in health care earned her the “National Advocate of the Year” Award from Families USA, a national health care advocacy organization.
Following the 2016 election, Renate worked tirelessly to save health care from Republican attacks in Congress. In the West Virginia Legislature, she will continue to work hard to protect the gains that have been made and work towards quality, affordable health care for all West Virginians including teachers and other public employees.
Life Beyond Career
When Renate arrived in Morgantown, West Virginia she was not sure that West Virginia would become her forever-home. Summer, Fall and Winter passed, and she was still not sure.
But then came April and she experienced her first Spring in Appalachia. She had never seen a Dogwood Tree, a Redbud or a Rhododendron. After that first Spring, she was hooked. Over the years, she has said that if she ever had to leave West Virginia, she would always come back in April and May.
Hiking with friends in West Virginia’s many wild and wonderful places is still a frequent activity. For the past decade, Renate and friends have had one or more dogs to accompany them. Renate grew up with dogs but it was until she was in her 50s that she adopted one of her own.
Today she lives with Ollie, a red standard poodle who brings her much joy and pleasure. Renate’s daughter lives in Morgantown where she works as a waitress and maid in a hotel. Her only grandson graduated from West Virginia University with a degree in economics. Like so many of our talented young people, Renate’s grandson left the state to pursue career opportunities in Austin, Texas.