By Kim Jones, Coordinator, Health Care for All WV
West Virginia doesn’t have a great track record on health or health outcomes. We have some of the highest rates of diabetes, heart attacks and lung cancer. We have the highest number of people living with the complications of obesity. We are ranked 47th in the nation in overall health. But one thing we have been doing right is the success of our childhood immunization program. We are leaders in the nation in protecting our children and public health. Unfortunately, every year some members of our legislature try to roll back the laws on childhood immunizations. This year is no different. Around a dozen bills take aim at creating exemptions or eliminating protections for infants and children. With states around us are starting to see measles make a comeback, this isn’t a time to risk the health of our kids and our communities. We will continue to watch these bills and let you know how they play out.
In a state where folks are finding it harder and harder to get the maternity care they need, one bill that could be a bright spot in the future for expectant West Virginians is SB 313. It would allow doula services to be covered by PEIA and Medicaid. Doulas offer support to the mother while pregnant, during labor and after the birth of the baby. They lead to better outcomes for the mother and infant, including fewer C-sections, fewer premature deliveries and greater success at breast feeding. The bill has passed from Senate Health to Senate Finance. We are hoping that the committee will keep this important legislation for WV families moving right to the governor’s desk.
In WV, as with many of our neighboring states, oral health is a cause for concern. But in 2020, we passed a bill that gave some of the most vulnerable people in the state a chance to address some of their dental needs. That bill gave adults on Medicaid a $1,000 benefit for diagnostic, preventative and restorative care. According to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, the new law saw significant impact early on with many people being able to see a dentist for the first time in years. It was a great start, but as we all know, $1,000 doesn’t buy you much dental care. This year, SB 374 was introduced to raise that benefit to $2,000. We urge lawmakers to get this bill rolling and keep up the good work in bringing important care to those who need it.
To end on some good news, SB 269 has passed! It decriminalizes the possession of drug test strips. Previous legislation considered the strips to be drug paraphernalia. In a state with some of the highest fatal overdose rates in the country, these strips can save lives. See this article for more.