17 July 2008

The Battle Over Cardiac Care in West Virginia

State health care regulations have left it to Gov. Joe Manchin to decide by Friday whether to allow West Virginia's smaller hospitals to offer more cardiac care, as WSAZ-TV and others explain.

"Currently, only hospitals with on-site cardiac surgery can perform an angioplasty, a procedure that clears blood flow to the heart. Smaller hospitals want the surgery option," WSAZ reports, adding that in advance of Friday's deadline, "both sides have launched emotional ads in newspapers throughout the state."

The Register-Herald of Beckley reports that "while the path is open for most other geographical areas in the state to be served by these suggested updates, there is a clear fear among many in this region’s medical and health services community that Southern West Virginia is being left behind."

The Intelligencer of Wheeling includes Weirton Medical Center among the hospitals seeking the change. "
WMC has participated in a pilot program for five years, allowing it to perform angioplasties without being approved for full cardiac surgery," that paper reported. "Out of nearly 900 procedures performed during the past five years, just one ended up having to go to a full cardiac hospital."

Election 2008 Roundup

  • The Associated Press offers the latest fundraising numbers from West Virginia's U.S. House candidates, focusing on the 2nd District matchup between incumbent Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and Democratic challenger Anne Barth. The Charleston Gazette also reports on the Capito-Barth figures.
  • MetroNews Talkline spoke to Dan Greear, the GOP nominee for state attorney general, about his five-point campaign platform. With audio.
  • AP, The Gazette and MetroNews also have items on John McCain's West Virginia campaign opening its in-state HQ in Charleston today.

16 July 2008

They Voted For You: Medicare Override

U.S. Reps. Alan Mollohan, D-1st; Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd; and Nick Rahall, D-3rd, all helped the House override President Bush's veto of the "Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008."

U.S. Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va., later joined much of the Senate in following suit to the 383-41 House vote. Senators voted 70-26 to override.

The Associated Press reports on the overrides, which revive "legislation protecting doctors from a 10.6 percent cut in their reimbursement rates when treating Medicare patients."

"Lawmakers were under pressure from doctors and the elderly patients they serve to void the rate cut, which kicked in on July 1," the article said. "The president said he supported rescinding the pay cut, but he objected to the way lawmakers would finance the plan, largely by reducing spending on private health plans serving the elderly and disabled."

Nearly 368,900 West Virginians receive health care benefits through Medicare, about 20% of the population, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Nationally, 15% are on the program.

15 July 2008

Manchin Signs Electioneering Bill

Gov. Joe Manchin has signed the hotly fought special session legislation that attempts to shore up West Virginia's reporting requirements for election-time political ads by most non-candidates, The Charleston Gazette reports.

"Supporters of the bill contend that it does not restrict various interest groups from conducting election advocacy campaigns, but merely requires that they disclose their funding sources," the article said. "Opponents argued it would have a chilling affect on the campaigns by organizations for or against particular candidates, saying the disclosure requirement will drive away many would-be contributors."

The legislation aims to respond to a federal judge's preliminary ruling in favor of the Center for Individual Freedom, which sued to challenge the state's law. The center has vowed to sue again over the special session action.

14 July 2008

West Virginian Edged Out in Presidential Primary

This weekend's annual meeting and convention of the Green Party in Chicago featured Mountain State resident Jesse Johnson as a contender for that alternative group's presidential nod.

The nomination ended up going to former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a story.

W.Va. Road Fund Woes

The Associated Press reports that West Virginia finds itself in the company of most other states as it struggles to provide sufficient funding for its road repair and building budget.

A key problem is that many states, and the federal government, levy a gasoline/diesel tax as a user fee to raise highway revenue. But the National Conference of State Legislatures finds that the motor fuel tax rates had failed to keep up with inflation even before rising prices at the pump made new increases all but impossible.

The high costs are projected to reduce consumption. As a result, West Virginia is expecting $25.8 million less from its motor fuels tax this year than it generated last year.

The other states are finding no clear answers. Neighboring Virginia, for instance, just ended a special session devoted to transportation issues in a stalemate. Proposals include more tolls, privatizing tolls, and taxing motorists for vehicle miles traveled.

The Register-Herald of Beckley also reports on the State Road Fund's performance in the just-completed budget year.

Update: Both the Beckley newspaper and The Charleston Gazette have items on attempts by U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., to secure federal highway dollars for the Mountain State this year.