Thursday, October 3, 2013

Hydra-Headed Obamacare Threat Spelled Out In State Journal Piece

The State Journal released a moderate sized article packed with Obamacare spawned problems.

It quotes David Ransey, CEO of Charleston Area Medical Center extensively.  Ramsey is frankly fearful of Obamacare's impact.

First. he details the threat to state hospitals.  Hospitals already face financial pressures.  In West Virginia, 18 have closed in the past 40 years.  The uncertain climate introduced by Obamacare threatens many of the rest.

Ramsey slammed public health care programs, both those for low income individuals and public employees.  They pay late and do not cover the full cost of services.  Hospitals must shift almost a third of a billion dollars per year onto private insurance to make up the shortfall.

Under Obamacare, this will only get worse.  Since many doctors will refuse to take Obamacare, this shifts more burden onto emergency rooms.  Costs rise for everyone.

The end of the piece adds in an interesting nugget.  Mark Muchow, from the state Department of Revenue, claims that Obamacare's increased cost burden on state taxpayers will require cuts in the budget somewhere.  He speculated these would come from higher education.

Obamacare is a nightmare for states, taxpayers, health care providers, private insurance, and, eventually state colleges and universities.

Good thing we didn't read it first.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What to Do With the West Virginia School For the Deaf and Blind?

The rumblings have been coming for some time.  What will happen to the 143 year old West Virginia School For the Deaf and Blind in Romney?

Assessments over the past year have raised questions.  Why keep the school in Romney?  How can the state afford to pay to maintain historically significant, but dilapidated and unused buildings?  In what ways must the school update itself to meet 21st century guidelines?

Estimates run as high as $80 million to renovate the campus and its curriculum to meet modern guidelines.

The location vexes many.  Why did the state put the school there in the first place?  The first generation of West Virginia state leaders sprinkled state institutions in different regions.  Most state jobs at the time were political appointments, so state institutions were seen as a good way to build party strength.  A story, perhaps apocryphal, says that Moundsville could have had West Virginia University, but chose the penitentiary instead because it offered more state jobs.

State law requires that the school remain in Romney.  It is unlikely that other legislators will desire to oppose Hampshire County's senators and delegates while also aligning themselves against an inevitable parade of disabled children and their supporters.

If Montgomery was able to prevent the sensible move of the school formerly known as West Virginia Tech to Charleston, the removal of this school from Romney is highly unlikely.

So it will likely stay put.  But how should it change and where will the money come from?

Currently the school only uses a fraction of its campus for educational purposes.

So here's a thought.  It may not even be doable.  But ideas are always worth debating.

First, do what colleges and universities do.  Hire a development team to raise money to refurbish the campus.  If the state makes a commitment to keep the school there, fundraisers can put donor names on every building.  They can even put plaques on every quarter acre.

Second, think beyond now.  What else can the school offer with its unused space?  Can it offer specialized digital classes to other schools and parents across the country?  Can it put together a post graduate training center to educate teachers from all over on how to work with deaf or blind children?

In other words, how can this beautiful and historical space be best utilized to not only serve the children of West Virginia, but also help to advance the field of disabled education?

This can be done under the current regime.  It might, however, offer better results if a non profit organization came together as a partner.  A non profit could take over currently unused sections of the campus and expand programs while partnering with and enriching the traditional mission.

Such an institution would certainly provide significant economic impact for Romney and Hampshire County.  A non profit that can attract out of state funds would perform that function much better than relying solely on taxpayer efforts.

It could be done.  It is at least worth a discussion.

Why Primary Offense Expansion Gives Police Too Much Power

Allegheny Radio Corporation's Amanda Mangan reported on Facebook about new traffic laws in Maryland that could affect West Virginia drivers.

She reported that, as of October 1, using a cell phone while driving now is a primary offense.  Like Maryland laws on seat belt usage, this means that officers can pull over drivers if they see them violating the law.  A driver can use his or her phone if pulled over, but not in the travel portion of the roadway.

These changes certainly affect West Virginia drivers in the Eastern Panhandle who frequently use Maryland interstates.

But they can also lead to a wider problem because they expand the scope of probable cause.  A police officer cannot pull a driver over unless they have good reason to suspect a violation of law.  Police need probable cause to satisfy Fourth Amendment requirements that the government not interfere with persons or their effects without good reason.

When states expand the scope of primary offenses, they also unintentionally expand the opportunity for unscrupulous law enforcement officers.  All an officer needs to say to justify pulling a car over is to claim that he or she thought they saw the driver using a cell phone.

The CDC reports that 3,331 drivers in 2011 died in accidents where cell phones were a factor.  That rose by 70 from the year before.  Proponents of expanding primary offense laws claim that they keep people safer from roadway malefactors

But is this worth the inevitable accompaniment of expanding law enforcement's ability to harass citizens at will?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Is the EPA Afraid of West Virginia?

List of cities where the EPA will hold hearings on carbon dioxide emissions, including from coal power plants.

Notice that none are in West Virginia or any other major coal producing state.


Cecil Roberts needs to join with the West Virginia Republican Party and demand a hearing in West Virginia.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Good and Bad Proposals From Children's Poverty Symposium

The "Our Children, Our Future" symposium last week brought several ideas to the table that proponents argue could improve the lives of children in poverty.

Dick Wittburg from the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department in Parkersburg suggested that great strides in childhood dental health could be made with one simple change.  He suggested that West Virginia petition the federal government to allow it to exclude sugary soda pop drinks from approved food stamp purchases.

He noted that sugar did not harm teeth as much as concentrated citric acid often found in the beverages.

Others argued that the state needed to raise its minimum wage above that of the federal level.  This would obviously have a detrimental impact.  Small businesses with thin profit margins would either cut employees or go out of business entirely because they are unable to pay more.

The state could also offer a scaled down version of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit.  Families with children earning under certain incomes qualify for more rebates on their income taxes.  This program, started under President Ronald Reagan, rewards working families with children.  Senator Mike Hall (R-Putnam) noted that such a program would likely cost the state around $37 million per year.

Such symposiums are valuable.  Experts can bring ideas to Charleston to be debated by legislators and others.  Despite the fact that some of these plans could be seriously detrimental, it is positive that the state provides a venue where they can be debated.