State Legislative Session 2021

The West Virginia legislative session began business on February 10.  The pace is fast and furious as the regular session is only 60 days long.  This powerpoint provides an overview of our legislative opportunities/challenges.

Key legislative session dates:  

- March 16, 2021 - Last day to introduce bills in the House
- March 22, 2021 - Last day to introduce bills in the Senate

(does not apply to originating or supplementary appropriation bills, and does not apply to Senate or House resolutions or concurrent resolutions)

- March 31, 2021 - Last day to consider bill on third reading in house of origin. Does not include budget or supplementary appropriation bills. 

- April 10, 2021 - Adjournment at Midnight

For a complete legislative calendar, contact information for Delegates and Senators, Committee membership, bill status, and other valuable information, go to https://www.wvlegislature.gov/

2021 is a unique legislative year:

  • 2020 election:  Super-majority (ie two-thirds) of House of Delegates & Senate members are Republican
  • Super-majority:  Unusual control of Committees that must vote on bills
  • COVID-19 safety:  limits in-person access to Capitol
  • Rule 84 change:  Committee chairs do not have to hold public hearings before voting on a bill
  • Good news:  Virtual meetings, phone calls, texts, social media may influence members MORE than ever before

The West Virginia Health Agenda 2021 defines ten goals and aspirations for legislation that will increase access to the quality, comprehensive, affordable health care that is essential for the economic and social success of all West Virginia families.  Some goals we hope to win this year, others may take several years of education and advocacy to advance to law.

Defensive Fights Distract from Our Proactive Health Agenda:

Unfortunately, this session we have to “chew gum and jump rope” at the same time.  We must educate legislators and the public on proposals that would harm West Virginia lower income families.  The biggest threat is a set of proposals that would eliminate (immediately or in several phases) the state personal income tax (PIT).  We have a basic fact sheet on why we oppose these proposals.

  • Personal Income Taxes pay for vital services.  
  • Tax policy can be complicated, but the basic principle of good, fair tax policy is this:  The richest should pay more & low-income, working families should pay less. 
  • Unfortunately, the tax proposal being discussed by legislative leaders will do just the opposite
  • If West Virginia scraps our personal income tax, we cut at least 43% of the total revenue that pays for state government functions. 
  • Proposed to fill the resulting revenue hole:
    • increase the sales tax to at least 8% and potentially higher – 10.3% would only replace half of the revenue lost by scrapping the personal income tax
    • reinstate a sales tax on food 
    • cut government functions across the board including public education, higher education, maintaining roads, keeping parks open, police and fire departments, hospitals, public health departments (think COVID-19 vaccine distribution), and health services

Positive Action on the West Virginia Health Agenda 2021 Goals:

Expanding Medicaid coverage to one year postpartum for women up to 300% of Federal Poverty Level (FPL)

300% FPL = $37,470 annual for single mom

In 2018, legislature expanded coverage for pregnant women up to 300% FPL but only for 60 days postpartum.  Postpartum conditions can continue long after the first 60 days.  In addition, continued Medicaid coverage is vital for parents who have substance use disorders.  Here is a basic fact sheet on the issue.  

Bipartisan support is strong for HB 2266.  The bill will be considered by the House Finance and Health Committees.  HB 2266 currently directs DHHR to extend Medicaid postpartum coverage from 2 months to 12 months for women up to 185% FPL.  With changes coming to the federal law, the state can do this with a simple Medicaid State Plan Amendment (SPA) rather than a more difficult Medicaid waiver request to the federal government.  

HB 2266 does not include language regarding postpartum coverage for women above 185% FPL. This is because West Virginia covers women from 185-300% FPL with CHIP funds, not Medicaid funds.  The coalition will need to add language to address CHIP or secure a promise that DHHR will take care of the extension to 12 months for women 186% to 300% FPL with CHIP funds. The CHIP funded coverage can be 12 months postpartum without special federal approval.

Additional Resources on this issue:

General piece on need for postpartum coverage:  https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20210111.655056/full/

Overview of efforts to extend Medicaid postpartum coverage fed & state:  https://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2021/jan/closing-gaps-maternal-health-postpartum-medicaid-chip

MACPAC recommendations (MACPA recommendations go further than what is currently in the COVID relief package under consideration in the Senate. The current language in the COVID relief package would allow states to extend Medicaid coverage to 12 months with a state plan amendment rather than a waiver at FMAP rates.  MACPAC recommended 100% federal match for this state plan option.) https://ccf.georgetown.edu/2021/02/01/macpac-recommends-one-year-of-postpartum-medicaid-coverage-at-100-match/

ACOG’s action page on website re Medicaid extension:  https://www.acog.org/advocacy/policy-priorities/extend-postpartum-medicaid-coverage