The West Virginia Briefing | September 19, 2018




Antitrust enforcers sign off on Cigna, Express Scripts merger. Bloomberg Law reports, “Antitrust enforcers signed off on Cigna Corp.’s $54 billion takeover of pharmacy-benefit manager Express Scripts Holding Co., clearing one of two health-care deals that stand to reshape the industry.”


…Deal to wrap by year’s end. Providence Business News reports, “Approval by the Justice Department smooths the way for the deal to wrap up by the end of the year…”


…Hardest part ahead. Amazon looms. Bloomberg Opinion reports, “But the hardest part lies ahead. This is a period of massive uncertainty for the PBM business, and Cigna is paying $54 billion for the pleasure of having to navigate it…

Amazon’s theoretical interest has become real. It hired legendary Harvard surgeon Atul Gawande to run its high-profile employee health-cost containment joint venture and confirmed its direct interest in the drug market with its purchase of online pharmacy startup PillPack. “


…DOJ says deal ‘unlikely to result in harm to competition or consumers.’ The Department of Justice reports, “Quality healthcare and competitive pricing for healthcare services and pharmaceutical drugs is critical to U.S. consumers. After a thorough review of the proposed transaction, the Antitrust Division has determined that the combination of Cigna, a health insurance company, and ESI, a pharmacy benefit management … company, is unlikely to result in harm to competition or consumers.”


Foster kids may be getting psychiatric drugs without oversight STAT reports, “Thousands of foster children may be getting powerful psychiatric drugs prescribed to them without basic safeguards, says a federal watchdog agency that found a failure to care for youngsters whose lives have already been disrupted.”


Orange County [California] fights needle exchange. The New York Times reports, “When the Orange County Needle Exchange Program opened in February 2016, it sought to fight rising H.I.V. and hepatitis C infections in the county by providing clean needles to intravenous drug users…


“In December 2017, Santa Ana terminated the needle exchange’s permit. As part of an effort to remain open, the exchange requested authorization from the state’s Department of Public Health to operate a mobile, countywide program in four cities: Santa Ana, Anaheim, Orange and Costa Mesa. Last month, it was granted permission to operate the expanded program.


“Now Orange County leaders have escalated their battle by suing to permanently shut down the expanded syringe exchange before it begins operating again.”


…Framingham [Massachusetts] begins needle exchange.  The Daily News reports, ”Hoping to reduce the transmission of HIV and other diseases among drug users, a social services organization that serves Framingham and surrounding communities is set to launch the first needle exchange program in MetroWest.”


…Tacoma [Washington] needle exchange celebrates 30 years. The News Tribune reports, “Rebecca Ford remembers keeping $500 in bail money in her freezer, just in case.


“Ford’s father, the late Dave Purchase, is widely regarded as not just the father of syringe exchange in Tacoma and Pierce County but across the nation. This week, the program Purchase started celebrated its 30th anniversary.”




Cabell Republican HOD candidates sign term-limit pledges for Congress members. The Herald-Dispatch reports, “U.S. Term Limits… is gathering support from candidates and state lawmakers across the nation.


“West Virginia House of Delegates candidates John Mandt Jr., running for the District 16 seat, and Evan Worrell, running for the District 18 seat, have committed support for term limits on Congress by signing the Term Limits Convention pledge. Both are Republicans in Cabell County.”


Morrisey challenges Manchin to three debates. One American News Network reports, “West Virginia Senate hopeful Patrick Morrisey is ramping up the pressure on Senator Joe Manchin, challenging him to three debatesin the coming weeks.”

…Poll finds Manchin leading. Emerson College reports, “A new Emerson College e-Poll finds US Senator Joe Manchin (D) leading the State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) 45% to 33%, 16% were undecided. The poll was conducted between September 13-15.”


Ojeda redefining West Virginia Democrat. Axios reports, “…West Virginia’s 3rd district: Trump won the district by 30 points, but Democrat Richard Ojeda is getting a lot of national attention in the race for this open seat. He’s redefining the West Virginia Democrat: he voted for Trump in 2016, he’s pro-labor, pro-gun, and has the backing of the coal miners. The RealClearPolitics polling average suggests he’s in a tight race with Republican Carol Miller.




FHA permits broadband expansion along rights-of-way without fees. WCBC reports, “Governor Jim Justice announced … that the Federal Highway Administration has verified that federal law allows the West Virginia Division of Highways to permit broadband expansion and other development projects on state rights of way without collecting a fee.”


Ethics complaint alleges Justice, Morrisey use office resources for political activities. The Intelligencer reports, “Van Jenkins of East Bank, West Virginia, has filed a complaint with the West Virginia Ethics Commission to investigate Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Governor Jim Justice for allegedly using their office resources for political activity.”


MetroNews details twists and turns of impeachment process. MetroNews reports, “Lots of twists and turnsremain on West Virginia’s Supreme Court impeachment adventure.”


Gaming and Hospitality

Troubling sports betting regulatory developments stirring beneath the surface. Legal Sports Report reports, “West Virginia was the first state to pass a law to legalize sports betting in 2018 and the fourth outside of Nevada to launch a state-regulated industry. WV sports betting kicked off at Hollywood Casino at the tail end of August, and The Greenbrier recently opened its FanDuel Sportsbook, too.

“Despite a smooth and profitable start, some troubling regulatory developments  are stirring beneath the surface.”



HIV rising in San Luis Obispo County [California]. The Tribune News reports, “HIV diagnosis rates are on the rise in San Luis Obispo County, and public health officials are urging residents to get tested for the disease.”


Health care shift influences where and how we go to the doctor The Tampa Bay Times reports, “The health care business in Florida and across the nation is the midst of monumental change as insurers, hospital chains and even retailers begin to venture outside their traditional roles… The shifting ground continues to change where and how they go to the doctor.”


Highland Hospital cuts workforce. WCHS reports, “Highland Hospital in Charleston, a subsidiary of Tennessee-based Meridian Behavioral Health Systems, announced … it is cutting its workforce by 31 employees.”


Jamaica bans sugary drinks in public health facilities. PIMS reports, “As of January 1, 2019, sugary drinks will be banned from public health facilities, says [Jamaican] Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton.”


Long-term care

Oklahoma cities become nursing home owners. Oklahoma Watch reports, “A handful of small Oklahoma cities have become owners of dozens of Oklahoma nursing homes across the state in the past 15 months, hoping to tap into a federal program that will bring them millions of dollars.”