Blog Posts > Governor Signs Medicaid Dental Expansion and Insulin Co-Pay Bills!
March 27, 2020

Governor Signs Medicaid Dental Expansion and Insulin Co-Pay Bills!

We could all use a little good news right about now! And we are happy to report that this week Governor Justice signed legislation to expand Medicaid to include dental care for adult recipients and to cap insulin co-pays!

SB 648 will provide dental coverage to over 300,000 Medicaid-enrolled adults over 21 years old. Investing money to cover oral health benefits for adults who rely on Medicaid provides substantial long-term gains for West Virginia, including better health outcomes, lower emergency room costs, and greater employability of our workforce. Read more in our report released earlier this year. The legislation will take effect on June 5, 2020 upon federal approval. 

HB 4543 caps the maximum monthly copays at $100 for insulin for West Virginians who have private health coverage. The caps are a positive step forward in addressing the rising costs of insulin and prescription drugs. The legislation will take effect July 1, 2020. 

Preparing for the Coronavirus Fiscal Fallout

Crises like the coronavirus outbreak create a double challenge for state governments. Demand for vital public services escalate just as the revenues to support those services take a major downturn.

West Virginia is already in a tight budget situation, with resources stretched thin. Before the effects of the crisis were really felt, the state revenues for the current fiscal year were already $18.7 million below estimates, with little growth anticipated in the coming fiscal year. The state is already facing multiple years of budget gaps, including $170 million FY 2022 $158 million in FY 2023, under current projections.

The first and most simple place to find resources is the state’s Rainy Day Fund. Unlike the federal government, West Virginia must balance its state budget. That means any decline in revenue must be offset by spending cuts. Tapping into the Rainy Day Fund would allow the state to keep providing vital services in the face of a sharp decline in revenue. West Virginia currently has $858 million in its Rainy Day Fund, one of the most robust funds in the country. The governor also has a $42 million surplus in the Civil Contingent Fund.

Read more in Sean’s blog post.

Please check out Sean’s op-ed which was published in today’s Charleston Gazette-Mail.

WV Population ‘Most at Risk in U.S.’ for Coronavirus

As we brace ourselves for the full impact of the Coronavirus in West Virginia, and the nation, it’s daunting to think about our vulnerable population and what can happen here. For a reminder on how important shelter-in-place measures are, especially to protect our elderly population, please read this article from Public News Service which features insights from Kelly Allen, our Director of Policy Engagement and Interim Deputy Director.

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Senate Compromise Coronavirus Relief Bill Improves for Low-Income West Virginians

This week, the Senate agreed to a compromise coronavirus relief bill that improves on flaws in its initial bill, which would have left out thousands of low-income West Virginians.

The compromise bill provides up to $1,200 in payments or rebates for individuals with income up to $75,000 a year and $500 per child. Benefits start to phase out for singles with income greater than $75,000 and married couples with incomes greater than $150,000. In West Virginia, the average rebate for households is $1,830, according to an analysis from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

Read more in Sean’s blog post

Read more from the Center for Economic and Policy Research on what is in the federal relief bill and what is missing. 

Help in Our Time of Need

In hard times, West Virginians of all backgrounds, beliefs, and abilities come together to support each other. Old and young, black and white, rich and poor-it’s who we are. Today as in any crisis, neighbors, friends, and strangers are helping each other and creating a better tomorrow.

Rapid Response WV grew out of a Facebook group, WV Food ER 2020, that has more than 2,500 members and is a grassroots response to hunger needs in communities. Members organize both the purchase of food and hygiene products, and delivery of those products and other meals. Rapid Response WV is composed of volunteers from organizations such as the American Friends Service Committee, Our Future West Virginia, and countless others. 

As of today, the group has met well over 100 need requests. Using donations, they are reimbursing volunteers for fuel, safety items like gloves and masks, as well as the food and necessary hygiene products for the growing list of families that have expressed need. 

Learn more at rapidresponsewv.org.

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Coalition Calls on Governor to Sign Executive Order Reducing Jail Populations Amid Outbreak

An outbreak of the virus in West Virginia’s overcrowded jails, prisons, and juvenile detention facilities risks the rapid transmission of the virus and its eventual spread beyond those confines. This could significantly prolong the time needed to bring the virus under control, overwhelm our medical capacity, and prove catastrophic for those who work in or are incarcerated in state correctional facilities, many of whom have not be tried or convicted of a felony or misdemeanor.

To minimize the threat of a massive outbreak, we call on the governor to use his constitutional powers to grant expedited commutations, release certain individuals, and implement alternatives to arrest and incarceration to reduce the overall population in state custodial facilities in a manner consistent with public safety.

Specifically, we urge the governor to:

  • Instruct the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation to identify all inmates in state correctional facilities who currently have 365 or fewer days of incarceration left to serve for the purpose of granting presumptive parole of these individuals, in the absence of evidence that they would pose an immediate and direct threat to public safety. 
  • Relieve the dangerous threat posed by overcrowded correctional facilities by instructing all relevant agencies to creatively work together to identify or expand recovery homes and transitional housing where released inmates who are homeless or struggling with addiction can go during this pandemic. 
  • Instruct state and local law enforcement agencies to use their discretion to respond to misdemeanor legal violations through warnings, summonses, and citations. 
  • Request that the West Virginia Supreme Court issue instructions to magistrates to reduce the number of people held pretrial in regional jails by setting personal recognizance bonds for non-felony offenses and establishing expedited judicial review and release procedures so that no one is incarcerated longer than 72 hours.
  • End the process of remitting to prison individuals who have committed technical parole violations in the absence of further criminal acts.

Like all other government agencies, the criminal justice system needs guidance from our Governor on how best to reduce the threat posed to West Virginia by the global pandemic.

We Are Hiring!

The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy is currently seeking an operations and communications manager. The operations and communications manager is responsible for a variety of duties including special event planning, communications, and office management. This position supports work that advances public policies that improve the quality of life for all West Virginians and includes media relations, public campaigns, publication design, and website and database management. Interested candidates are encouraged to forward their resumes to info@wvpolicy.org.

This position has the flexibility to be part or full time depending on the applicant and the WVCBP’s needs. The WVCBP is an equal opportunity employer. We encourage applications from all qualified individuals without regard to race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, or national origin.

Read full job announcement here.

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Registration Open for the 2020 Summer Policy Institute

Registration is open for this year’s Summer Policy Institute! Join us at Fairmont State University this July for a great weekend of policy discussion and networking!

Register here

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