Appearing on CNN in September, the moderate Democrat from West Virginia implied that he would not support extending the monthly payments, which come in the form of an expanded child tax credit (CTC), without changes. “There’s no work requirements whatsoever,” he said. “There’s no education requirements whatsoever for better skill sets. Don’t you think, if we’re going to help the children, that the people should make some effort?”
By Kat Stoll
January 18, 2022
I first met Samples when he worked for the West Virginia insurance commissioner. He is a sharp and dedicated who cares deeply about low-income West Virginians. I deeply respect how Samples has weathered political change in our state and kept his eyes on the big goals, like reducing the number of uninsured West Virginians. State administrators often go without accolades and, too often, become the public scapegoat for harmful policies they did not ask for or create.One of Samples’ skills is lifting his head out of the daily details of running a state bureaucracy and pinpointing big issues and problems that need addressed.
‘In Focus with KFF’: What to Know About the New Ban on Surprise Bills
Following years of bipartisan outcry over surprise medical bills, a new federal law that took effect Jan. 1 shields patients from receiving potentially large bills when they unexpectedly receive care out of network. In this new video, KFF Senior Fellow Karen Pollitz explains why surprise bills have been such a major problem for patients, how the new law works, potential gaps in the protections, and what patients can do if they believe they have received a surprise bill.
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By Kat Stoll
January 8, 2022
On the first day of 2022, pharmaceutical companies increased prices on 460 medications, with most prices up5% to 6% on average, according to the research firm 46brooklyn.
I guess that journalists reporting on prescription drug price increases only need to paste in the latest increase to the same headline year after year. This year’s price increases were comparable to last year’s. The number of drugs that had January price increases by year: 629 (2021); 385 (2020); 359 (2019); 538 (2018); and 494 (2017).Read more
West Virginians positioned to disproportionately benefit from Medicare expansion blocked by their senators
By Mike Tony
Jan 7, 2022
Jeffrey Gordon, 72, of Morgantown takes the podium in front of the FamilyCare Health Center location on Charleston’s West Side on Dec. 14 out in favor of the Build Back Better bill. Gordon and others expect the plan to lower prescription drug costs under Medicare Part D, one of s projected benefits prompting the bill’s backers to push U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., to end their to the bill.Read more
January 3, 2022
Monday, January 3, 2022
Health advocates say the continuous-coverage provision in the Build Back Better Act - which has hit a dead end in Congress - would benefit West Virginia's kids by ensuring they receive regular checkups and developmental screenings, no matter where they live.
Julianne Yacovone - child health director for West Virginians for Affordable Healthcare - pointed out that kids have year-round health needs, even if their parents' income or employer-sponsored coverage fluctuates.
By Kathleen Stoll
Jan 1, 2022
In 2021, I have been lucky to have a few of my opinion pieces on the federal Build Back Better legislative package appear on the Gazette-Mail editorial page. Because I do not believe the debate about Build Back Better is over, I feel compelled to write yet another op-ed. To find the magic words or the right story that will illustrate why Build Back Better is so important for West Virginia families — lower health insurance premiums, lower prescription drug costs, help with the cost of childcare and home health care workers for our elders, and more.
The country has a nursing shortage, and West Virginia is among the states where the situation is especially acute. Hospitals and health care facilities are constantly trying to fill vacancies created when nurses quit or retire.Read more
By Jessica Ice
December 25, 2021
It’s a classic scene from the movie, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” The town crier maneuvers his cart through a plague-infested town, calling, “Bring out your dead!”
A worthy knight brings to the cart a supposedly dead person, who objects, “I’m not dead yet!” The knight replies, “He will be soon, he’s very ill.” The person insists, “No, I’m feeling much better, I’d like to go for walk.” The town crier settles the argument by hitting the poor fellow over a head with a hammer and adding his body to the pile.Read more
Dec 16, 2021
Hoping Senator Manchin Continues the Tradition of Caring About Our Families
There has been a lot of hand-wringing across the country about our Senator Manchin and the Build Back Better legislative package in Congress. There is no question that Senator Manchin has the future of Build Back Better in his hands. Will he vote for this package of family supports? Only Joe knows….Read more
I’m India Frith, Deputy Story Collection Coordinator, and I’m from Manhattan, New York, but was raised on the West side of Charleston, West Virginia. I graduated from Capital High School in 2019 and plan on attending West Virginia University in Morgantown to study Social Work. I am passionate about pursuing a career helping my community - which I discovered was my passion after partnering with several West Virginia-based advocacy organizations including Black Voters Impact Initiative, American Civil Liberties Union of WV, Young WV, Gift Project, WV Can’t Wait, and many more. Each of these experiences has helped me to learn, network, and build relationships with my community members. I’m especially passionate about learning skills that will help me encourage other young people and adults to be more politically involved and improve our state for the next generation.Read more
December 6, 2021
By: Kat Stoll
Sometimes we use a short-hand term to refer to a proposed policy. A short-hand term can facilitate conversation. A short-hand term may reflect a bias for or against a policy. The term can be part of a marketing strategy or even propaganda. Or it can just have accidental results.Read more
West Virginia Can Celebrate the U.S. House Passage of Build Back Better
Desperately Needed Help for Working West Virginia Families
Today, the United States House of Representatives voted to pass the Build Back Better legislative package and we now turn to the Senate to vote to pass Build Back Better. Advocates for working families across the nation have their eyes turned to Senator Joe Manchin. His vote is key to moving Build Back Better across the finish line.Read more
By Kathleen Stoll
Nov 19, 2021
It was June 2020. Not realizing how quickly the tide rises in Maine, three teenagers found themselves trapped on a sandbar 1,800 yards off the coast. As dangerous crosscurrents grew stronger by the minute, a 21-year-old lifeguard swam across the channel and brought the youngsters safely back to shore.
“It’s what we’re hired to do,” he said.Read more
As the Build Back Better legislative package crawls through the legislative sausage-making in Washington, Senator Joe Manchin has said he opposes a new dental benefit in Medicare. As he explains it, he is worried about the financial future of Medicare.
This makes absolutely no sense at all and reflects an important misunderstanding about how Medicare works and is funded. But because it is the Senator’s stated reason for opposing something that older and disabled West Virginians need desperately, it merits examination.
But first a story. Then a few West Virginia facts. And then back to Medicare’s future.
I have a West Virginia friend who is in his early 70s and lives on a small, fixed income. During the summer, this gentleman started mentioning that he had a bad toothache and couldn’t chew. But he didn’t go to the dentist because he – like many of us - worried he couldn’t pay the bill and didn’t want to ask his kids for help or end up putting the bill on a high-interest credit card.
So he waited. And not surprisingly his cheek started to blow up and he ran a fever and felt pretty durn sick.
That forced him to the dentist. Maybe because he waited, the tooth had to pulled.
The dentist said that in order for my friend to chew properly, he needed a single tooth bridge. Nothing fancy. No tooth implant. And because my friend likes to eat, he agreed. The bill was $2600. And yes he did end up using a high-interest credit card to pay the dentist.
If my friend had needed a tooth next to the first one extracted as well, and a double bridge – not a uncommon scenario – he would have faced a bill of over $4,500.
And what if this senior citizen had been too worried about the bill and waited even longer to go to the dentist? He could have ended up in the hospital very sick from an infection that traveled from his mouth to his respiratory system, and or to his heart or brain. And the resulting cost to Medicare of a hospital stay and treatment would have been much, much higher.
This gentleman’s story is not unique. 45 percent of West Virginians don’t see a dentist annually, even before the COVID pandemic. 26 percent of West Virginians lost all of their teeth; 56 percent lost 6 or more teeth. West Virginia is ranked at the bottom among the states and D.C. for overall oral health.
Now back to Senator Manchin’s concern about Medicare’s future – about Medicare solvency.
The technical 2021 Medicare Trustees report is the source of the concern about Medicare’s financial status. While full of caveats, the report projects a depletion of Medicare Part A trust funds by 2026 and suggests that this shortfall will need to be addressed with federal legislation. I agree. Limiting the profitability of Medicare Advantage plans is on my list of recommended fixes.
Here’s the misunderstanding. Part A pays only for hospitalizations. A Medicare dental benefit is NOT paid through Part A. Funding for a dental benefit would be paid through Part B, which pays for most outpatient care. Part B solvency is not at risk since it is funded through general revenues and premiums.
A dental benefit would strengthen Medicare’s Part A solvency by reducing hospitalizations and emergency room use triggered by untreated oral disease. A 2021 Avalere Health study that looked only at Medicare enrollees with diabetes and heart disease found a dental benefit could save Medicare at least $63 billion in 10 years.
Senator Manchin needs to understand that a Medicare dental benefit is one way to strengthen Medicare Part A solvency.
If Senator Manchin does not want to make the upfront investment that will save Medicare money in the long run, then I’d suggest that he at least consider a compromise position. Perhaps a new Medicare dental benefit could have an initial annual or life-time cap per enrollee. I don’t like this idea, but it would limit the cost of a new dental benefit. If nothing else, perhaps the Build Back Better package could include a robust demonstration program that would (once again) show the long-term savings that a dental benefit could bring to Medicare.
As the United States House of Representatives is poised to pass the Build Back Better legislative package, you may be wondering what health provisions remain in the compromise version. The vote is expected to happen today (or very soon); some moderate House Democratic members would like to see the Congressional Budget Office score on the package before the House votes. So below is a quick summary of the Build Back Better health provisions – with thanks to our allies at Families USA.Read more
HERE HAS NEVER BEEN A MORE IMPORTANT TIME TO
CALL SENATOR MANCHIN
The Build Back Better legislative package (BBB) that includes historic programs to support families is on the move in Congress. A scaled-back compromise framework was released last week
Please call Senator Manchin:
Charleston office: 304-342-5855
D.C. office: 202-224-3954
The BBB is a huge step in the right direction for West Virginia families and for advancing clean energy.Read more
October 28, 2021
Contact: Jessica Ice, Ph.D.
Build Back Better Negotiated Compromise Framework Released Today
Statement of Jessica Ice, Ph.D., Executive Director
West Virginians for Affordable Health Care
Today President Biden and key leaders in Congress presented a framework that represents the negotiated compromise “Build Back Better” federal legislative package that is expected to be voted on next week.Read more
Sen. Joe Manchin wants to restrict who gets the child tax credit. These West Virginians would be affected if he prevails.
Manchin supports new requirements for the expanded child tax credit that would likely end the benefit for thousands of families in his state.
By Kathleen Stoll
October 23, 2021
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., keeps talking about W-2 forms. Maybe it is just me, but this seems off-kilter.
Yes W-2s — those forms that show your earnings over the past year and that you include with your income tax forms. Joe is talking about W-2s in the context of a key program to help kids that is in the Build Back Better legislative package. The package is being hotly debated in Congress right now and Manchin is at the very center of the debate. Manchin wants to restrict the child tax credit so it only supports kids in families where a parent has a W-2.
My friends and I hate to admit it – we believe that a person is only as old as they feel – but judging by our birthdays we all qualify as elders. Elders sounds so much more dignified than “old” right?Read more
Someone you know will be helped by Build Back Better
By Kathleen Stoll
Oct 2, 2021
I understand that no one wants to read an op-ed that is just a bunch of bulleted facts. Message gurus tell us that we need to use stories to trigger activity in the parts of our brain that stimulate empathy.Read more
I believe in democracy and that elected officials are beholden to their constituents. When I am really excited about something going on in Congress, I let my federal representatives know where I stand. My momma taught me that educated engagement is real patriotism.Read more
Stop the insanity! As the pandemic surged, elected officials prevented economic crisis and human suffering. Now, many emergency actions will expire. Sadly, too many West Virginia families and children are caught between partisan economic policies and their well-being. These same officials need to act now.
*Beth is a disability rights advocate who formerly served West Virginia as a 911 emergency dispatcher for 28 years. She agreed to speak with us on what would have been her daughter *Amy’s 41st birthday. Beth also requested that we share her story anonymously. Her name, and the names of her daughter and son-in-law have all been changed to protect their privacy.Read more
I started to draft a blog with a bunch of statistics about how critical Medicaid is to West Virginia. Chances are that if you are reading this West Virginians for Affordable Health Care blog, you are familiar with a least some of these stats already.
So Far So Good: Update on Congressional Action The bipartisan “hard” infrastructure investment package:
This week it may seem like we saw a setback in the Senate when the vote to move the federal infrastructure package failed. This is the package of legislation that is moving through Congress to provide funding for “hard” infrastructure – think roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, energy advancements, broadband investments for rural areas, etc. But the failed vote really wasn’t a defeat at all. Let me explain.
This week, West Virginians for Affordable Health Care will be calling our family, friends, and neighbors to ask them to help us send an important message to Senator Manchin: please support fair share taxes for big corporations and billionaires so that our nation can invest in programs that help working families.
Over the summer, the U.S. Congress will be debating the provisions of President Biden’s proposed American Families Plan (AFP). Ultimately, the passage of all or part of the American Families Plan will happen through the federal budget resolution and reconciliation process.Read more
Today, we share the story of Donna and Todd from Kearneysville, West Virginia. Every story helps us show policy-makers how important Medicaid is to our families, and that is key to fighting to keep and improve Medicaid in West Virginia.
Do you have a Medicaid story to share? Connect with our storyteller, Mariah Plante, to arrange a time to talk about your experiences and how your story can become a powerful advocacy tool.
Donna and Todd
Berkeley County, West Virginia
I would like to introduce myself. I am Stephanie, the new policy intern at West Virginians for Affordable Health Care (WVAHC). My passion for policy and advocacy work started when I was a Social Work undergraduate at Concord University.Read more
Frontline health care providers train themselves to stay calm and not get excited. But last Thursday, a group of such providers from Morgan, Berkeley, and Jefferson Counties sounded pretty durn excited during a brainstorming session health by the Eastern Panhandle Health Work Group.
House Votes 0-Yeas and 100-Nays on the Governor’s Tax Shift Proposal
This is our fourth blog on the proposals to phase-out the state personal income tax and raise the retail sales tax in the West Virginia legislature. It all started with a proposal from Governor Justice. Then the state legislature tried to make his unworkable proposal somehow work. The House passed its own version, HB 3300. Next the Senate Finance Committee came up with its own version, Amended HB 3300, which passed the full Senate. That version then moved back to the House for a vote. Whew.
The ‘Medicaid Cliff’ represents the tipping point at which some people find themselves at the very edge of income eligibility for the Medicaid program. In West Virginia, that’s 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (for an individual in 2021, that is $17,609 a year, for a family of two it is $23,792, for a family of three it is $29,974).
Update on HB 3300
Passed in the WV House: Tax breaks for the richest and the rest of us left to fend for ourselves
As we mentioned before, the West Virginia legislature now has a super-majority of Republican Delegates and Senators. This means that in both the House and the Senate, two-thirds of the Members are Republicans. Super-majority control gives one party – in this case the Republicans - a free hand to move forward a bill without any support or effort at compromise with other parties.Read more
On the table in our state legislature:
Tax breaks for the richest and an empty plate for you and me
On February 26th, I shared my deep concerns in a blog here about Governor Justice’s proposal to eliminate the state personal income tax and bankrupt our state. Since that time, variations on his proposal have been popping up like poisonous mushrooms after a spring thunderstorm.
There has been a conversation within several of West Virginia’s nonprofit organizations on how to address Maternal Morbidity. Obviously, no one wants to see unnecessary deaths if they can be prevented, especially if the reason is that the individual simply cannot afford their postpartum care and are therefore not receiving the healthcare they need.Read more
The U.S. House of Representatives formally passed the final version of the American Rescue Plan legislative package today. This package will provide much-need financial relief to our nation as we continue to confront the COVID-19 pandemic. President Biden is expected to sign the Act into law on Friday, March 12th.
Medicaid Presumptive Eligibility – Good Policy for West Virginia
A bill was introduced in the West Virginia legislature which would eliminate Medicaid presumptive eligibility for adults at hospitals. SB 354, introduced by Senator Chandler Swope (R - Mercer, 06), is just a plain bad bill that would take away a very good policy for low-income West Virginians.
State Legislature Considers Bill to Help Cap Costs for West Virginians with Diabetes
Living with diabetes is an expensive proposition. It is estimated that one in four health care dollars is spent on diabetes related issues. West Virginia took two steps forward in the 2020 legislative session to address high prescription drug costs for West Virginia families, both with bipartisan support:
- The legislature passed the “Requiring Accountable Pharmaceutical Transparency, Oversight, and Reporting Act” law which requires drug manufacturers and health benefit plan issuers who sell prescription drugs in West Virginia to provide cost information, changes in cost information, and prescription drug statistics to the State Auditor who will publish the data on a public website in June 2021.
- The legislature passed a private insurance insulin copayment cap of $100 per month.
Every year I get very excited about the state legislative session – which started a little later this year on February 10. We all have our lists of great bills we hope to move through the legislative process. This is democracy in action! And of course with COVID-19 it is going to take the virtue of patience with virtual!
The Medicaid program exists in every state in the nation. Yet there is an old saying among Medicaid advocates, “Once you are an expert on one state’s Medicaid program, you know all there is to know about one state’s Medicaid program.” Every state Medicaid program is unique. States have tremendous flexibility in designing their Medicaid programs. West Virginia can change many aspects of Medicaid in our state at any time.
I want to be the first to welcome everyone to West Virginia for Affordable Health Care’s new website! 2020 has shown us that we all live online and--just in time--we are starting 2021 with a new, user friendly space where we can share the latest information on the policies at the state and local level. We hope you find this easy to navigate and filled with useful information.
During the COVID-19 crisis stresses have increased as we all care for our families, friends, and communities. The people at TEAM For West Virginia Children have compiled this information for sharing, thank you TEAM.
Upon arrival to an accident, firefighters are taught to wait for their incident commander to get a quick assessment of the situation, get their safety gear on (“donning” in fireman lingo), and then jump directly into their rolls such as lineman, the one who leads the charge with the hose.
The day before the West Virginia Insulin Caravan, Roxy Vasil, age 17, was donning his Personal Protective Equipment (PPE - the jacket and pants firefighters wear) and his Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA). Roxy was taking his practical skills test for Hazmat Awareness and Standards of Procedures training. Roxy joined the Cheat Lake Volunteer Fire Department back in March of 2019 and has been enjoying his time there with the goal of “giving back and serving the community.” When he joined the bus to head to Canada, Roxy did the smart thing and went to the back of the bus, taking a seat next to three emergency exits within arm’s reach. That way he could best help if there was an accident.
Roxy on the right in part of his Class C from hazmat training.
By Julianne Yacovone, Coordinator of Child Health, West Virginians for Affordable Health Care
I’m not a native of West Virginia. I have an outsider’s perspective on the struggle she state faces—such as poverty and poor health. I’ve come to find West Virginians to be considerably generous and receiving people. Regardless of the challenges they may be facing, they will go out of their way to help you. The statehas faced no shortage of hardships: battling a statewide drug crisis, food shortages, and a lack of mental health care resources have taken a significant toll on its population. In areas where we lead other states, it tends to be in the worst ways. We are first in obesity, type 2 diabetes, Cancer, and drug-induced deaths according to Trust for America’s Health data. West Virginia is also the top state for child removals, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources WVDHHR, with a shocking 85% of those removals being drug related. Nearly 6800 of West Virginia’s kids were placed in foster care in the month of August, 2019 alone.Read more
JENNY'S MEDICAID STORY: “LOOKING BACK, IF I DID NOT HAVE MEDICAID, I WOULD BE DEAD. IT SAVED MY LIFE.”
Meeting Jenny during her lunch break at her public service job was inspiring to say the least. As I listened to her story of pregnancy, cancer survival, job challenges, raising children, and taking care of her aging mother, I was reminded of so many other West Virginians who face multiple choices and challenges to keep their family and themselves healthy.
Paul Smith, long-time West Virginia advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, has worked closely with WV Together for Medicaid to protect the program from federal and state attacks and funding cuts.