By passing three of its top priority bills, the Health Care for All WV Coalition won big this year in the fight for all West Virginians’ right to health care.
Coalition members flooded the West Virginia State Capitol with phone calls, letters, events, and lobby visits, and worked with legislators on both sides of the aisle to build bipartisan support around health issues. Some members helped organize a bus trip to Canada to save up to 90% on insulin costs, drawing attention to West Virginia’s skyrocketing drug prices. Others hosted an ice cream social at the Capitol to remind lawmakers about the struggles of West Virginians with disabilities.
Hundreds of West Virginians joined together in asking legislators to support common sense measures that save money, dignity and lives in the long run. They urged lawmakers to choose people over profit by working towards a health system that serves everyone.
Thanks to these advocates, the Coalition won the fight to:
- Provide Dental Coverage for 300,000 Adults who use Medicaid. SB 648, which provides dental coverage to all Medicaid-enrolled adults over 21 years old, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Access to oral health care is linked to better health outcomes, reduced medical costs like emergency department visits, and increased work attendance.
- Provide home- and community-based services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by clearing the I/DD Waiver Waitlist. Thanks to an outpouring of citizen action at the Capitol, the legislature set aside $19.8 million to support all 1,084 individuals currently on the I/DD waiver waitlist. Many of these individuals and their families have been waiting for years to receive coverage for services and care at home, so that they don’t have to live in an institution.
- Cap Insulin Copays at $100 for a 30-day supply. The price of insulin, sold by only three manufacturers in the U.S., has more than tripled over ten years. HB 4543 puts a cap on monthly copays for West Virginians who have private health coverage or PEIA. It’s expected to make insulin more affordable for many. The past few years have seen an increase in deaths and strokes among people who are forced to skip or ration their insulin because they can’t afford it. This bill is a big step in the fight to curb outlandish drug company profits and make live-saving prescription drugs affordable for everyone.
In addition, the Coalition helped defeat:
- Medicaid Work Reporting Requirements. This bill, now defeated two years in a row, would have taken away health coverage from 37,000 West Virginians. It would have stripped away care from many working people who would not have been able to meet the requirements.
- A ban on evidence-based syringe exchange programs. A ban on syringe exchanges would be devastating for public health. These services prevent deadly disease outbreaks and save $6 in HIV treatment for every dollar invested. New clients in such programs are five times more likely to enter drug treatment and three times more likely to stop consuming drugs than drug users who do not use the programs.
- A Sham Pre-existing Condition Protection Bill, put forth by Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. This bill had very weak protections for West Virginians with pre-existing conditions, lacked non-discrimination protections, and would have allowed insurers to deny health plans to many residents. A better course would be for our Attorney General to remove our state from the Federal lawsuit seeking to kill off the Affordable Care Act that made preexisting conditions an issue.
The work is just beginning. This summer, Coalition members and volunteers will knock on doors across the state to hear what West Virginians want to fix about their health care system. Building towards another legislative campaign in 2021, they will organize town halls on health care in the summer and legislative candidate forums in the fall. Top priorities for next year include enacting a Paid Family and Medical Leave program and Medicaid and CHIP buy-in options for those who struggle to afford Marketplace insurance plans.
The Health Care for All Coalition is a coalition of people and organizations that includes hundreds of citizen advocates personally affected by our health care crisis. It is led by West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, and West Virginia Citizen Action Education Fund, and also includes the Fair Shake Network, the WV Team for Insulin Affordability, Rise Up WV, Circles Campaign of the Mid-Ohio Valley, and other groups.
To learn more about Health Care for All, and to get involved, visit healthcareforallwv.com.♦