February 20, 2019
From The Well

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

 

Day 43

 

 

Teachers strike, House votes down education bill

 

Teachers and service personnel participated in a work stoppage Tuesday because of the actions of the Senate Monday night, which reinstated many of the provisions of the education bill that had been eliminated in the version of the bill sent over by the House.

 

All but one of West Virginia’s county school systems closed schools. Putnam County schools remained open for any students who wished to come to school.

 

The House of Delegates voted down the Senate’s changes by a vote of 53-45 in favor of a motion to postpone the bill indefinitely.

 

According to union officials for the West Virginia chapter of the AFT and the WVEA, teachers did not trust that the bill would not be resurrected today, so they continued their work stoppage Wednesday.

 

 

Senate EIM Committee sends gas well permit bill to floor

 

The Senate Committee on Energy, Industry & Mining met Tuesday afternoon to continue discussion over Originating Bill 2 from the previous meeting.

 

The proposed legislation would amend current West Virginia code to provide permitting fees for horizontal oil and gas well drilling in the state. Permit fees would go through the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Proceeds from the fees would be cut in half; one half would go to additional staffing for permits at the DEP with a hard cap of $1 million, and the other half would go to funding for plugging orphan wells.

 

One of the presenters shared that currently, there are more than 4,000 plus orphan wells in West Virginia, and that number is expected to exceed 10,000 the next 30 years. It costs between $40,000 and $100,000 to plug just one well.

 

 

Senate Health has busy Tuesday meeting

Sometimes committees take up mundane bills. Sometimes they alter the face of health practice, at least a little. Tuesday was the latter in the Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources.

 

Bill allows critical access hospitals to close inpatient facilities

Members approved SB 593, which allows critical access hospitals to close their inpatient facilities—often kept open at a financial loss—and still be eligible to have ambulances bring patients to the facilities for care. The facilities must have transfer protocols and must be critical access hospitals before they can apply to become community outpatient medical centers.

 

Committee Chairman Michael J. Maroney, a physician, said CAH facilities provide valuable services, often stabilizing patients before transferring them to other facilities, but lose money on inpatient services, which they must have to maintain their ambulance practices. The bill goes to the Senate.

 

Bill increases coverage for pregnant women, children

Committee members approved SB 564. The bill extends Medicaid coverage for pregnant women from 150 percent of the poverty level to 185 percent. It also provides 60 days post-postpartum coverage.

 

It bumps up CHIP coverage for pregnant women to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. CHIP already covers children at 300 percent of the FPL. Medicaid Commissioner Cindy Beane said the additional cost in state dollars is about $868,000, generating federal dollars to make the bill’s fiscal impact about $36 million. The bill now goes to the Committee on Finance.

 

Committee approves 50 percent tax credit for physicians locating in state

Physicians locating in West Virginia would get a 50 percent tax credit according to

SB 80, approved by the committee.  Members pegged that down from a 100 percent tax credit. The bill establishes procedures for qualifying for the tax credit and for repaying it if qualifications are unmet The bill now goes to the Finance Committee.

 

The Finance Committee approves physician upper payment level. On Tuesday afternoon, Finance members approved Committee Substitute for SB 546, allowing acute care hospitals to increase provider tax payments by .13 percent. The extra money drawn down from Medicaid goes toward enhancing reimbursement of hospital-employed physicians.

 

 

House Committee allows for cannabis expansion
 House Committee on Health and Human Resources  members approved HB 2079, which, according to Committee Counsel Charles Roskovensky, is the same as last year’s, HB 4345, allowing for 50 cannabis growers and processors and 165 distributors. The changes are a result of recommendations from the West Virginia Cannabis Advisory Board, which probably hasn’t met in more than a year.

 

2017’s enacting legislation, SB 386, allowed BPH to issue permits to 10 growers, 10 processors and 30 dispensaries. Language in the bill allows for “vertical integration.” Growers, processors and distributors could be the same person or corporate entity and not separate, as required by current law.

 

The expansion could be a state budget boon. According to current law, growers or processors pay BPH a nonrefundable $5,000 application fee and a $50,000 permit fee, with a $5,000 annual renewal fee. Dispensaries pay a nonrefundable $2,500 application fee and a $10,000 permit fee for each location, with a $2,500 annual renewal fee.

 

No medical cannabis money can flow into the state until a banking problem is fixed, which is the purpose of H. B. 2538 which is currently in possession of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

 

Committee relaxes medication-assisted treatment rules

After years of negotiating Office-Based Medication-Asssited Treatment Rules, Health Committee members Tuesday, approved HB 3132, exempting providers serving less than 30 patients from those rules.

 

Del. Michael Rohrbach, a Cabell County physician, said rural providers want to provide treatment but can’t meet all the rule’s administrative requirements. He said passage of the bill allows physicians to care for patients in their communities.

 

Licensed behavioral health facilities, already governed by legislative rules, are exempted.

 

WV Legislature

 

Legislature Live
Meeting Notices

 

Proposed Rules
Legislative Wrap-up

 

Some information in this update is collected from the WV Legislature’s Daily/Weekly Blogs.

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