WV bill to create low-cost health insurance program

A bill to allow concealed carry on many areas of West Virginia college campuses is close to final passage. What do students think?

But first, there’s a proposal to create a program that could provide health insurance at little to no cost for thousands of West Virginians.

Bill would create affordable insurance plan for low-income West Virginians

At the Susan Dew Hoff Memorial Clinic, the only health care center in West Virginia dedicated solely to providing free dental care, office manager Gail Marsh gets excited when patients tell her they won’t be returning. Many times, it means they are no longer uninsured, a common problem for many working class West Virginians.

“Too many of our people make just enough money to not be served by Medicaid,” Marsh said.

According to a new report from the Urban Institute, there are 13,000 uninsured West Virginians who make slightly too much to qualify for Medicaid, the federal program created to insure low-income Americans. Many state residents in that financial position are faced with paying thousands of dollars for private health insurance or going without coverage.

Some state lawmakers have seen the toll private health plans take on working class West Virginians’ finances and believe trying to stay within the Medicaid income limits ultimately disincentivizes employees from seeking pay raises.

“[The private plans] are not wanting to help the mother who’s 22, works as a waitress at a restaurant and maybe trying to go to school part time,” said Senate Majority Leader Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha.

Today, the House Health and Human Resources Committee heard an option to address that problem. HB 3274 would create an affordable insurance plan for West Virginians who fall in this gap. Instead of paying thousands of dollars for premiums, people who chose to sign up for it would pay either nothing or $10 a month, depending on their yearly income.

The program would be fully funded by the federal government aside from minimal costs for additional staffing, according to Cindy Beane, Commissioner of the Bureau for Medical Services. Both Republicans and Democrats praised the legislation in their discussions.

“This is, I believe, a very conservative idea,” Del. Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, said during the meeting. “It encourages people to work harder and get raises.”

The bill passed Health and Human Resources unanimously by a voice vote, and was sent to the House Judiciary Committee. But in order for the measure to become law this year, that Committee must hear it in the next two weeks.

Jessie Ice, executive director of the West Virginians For Affordable Health Care, thinks many West Virginians literally can’t afford for the Legislature to stall on this bill.

“It would show that we’re not serious about helping workers in West Virginia climb the economic ladder,” Ice said. –Allen Siegler

Campus carry may soon be legal. Students have mixed feelings.

WVU students protested SB 10, which would allow people with concealed carry permits to bring guns on campus. Photo by Ellie Heffernan

Yesterday, there was a hearing at the Capitol about a bill that would legalize concealed carry on college campuses. Overwhelmingly, people spoke against the bill.

Over the past several days, our community watchdog reporter Ellie Heffernan has traveled the country and spoken with students at several universities to hear directly from them on the issue. This is who will be most impacted by the legalization of campus carry, and we want to share what they have to say about it.

Overall, feelings were mixed. Many of the students Ellie spoke with said they were afraid they would be more likely to experience gun violence. Others see guns as commonplace, having grown up with family members who used them for hunting or self-defense.

Read more.

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