West Virginia’s Prescription Transparency Law Can Address Rising Drug Costs
The cost of prescription drugs is one of the leading health care issues in the United States, accounting for $335 billion of total health care spending in 2018 and over 23 percent of total health insurance premium costs. And the cost of prescription drugs is rising. The cost of prescription drugs is one of the leading health care issues in the United States.
West Virginia has not been immune to the increasing costs of prescription drugs. Between 1991 and 2014, per capita spending on prescription drugs in West Virginia grew by an average of 6.8 percent per year, from $304 per capita to $1,377, faster than all other health care spending.
Our report released this week examines the process behind prescription drug pricing, particularly the role of state budgets and Medicaid and how states have used drug price transparency reforms to improve the process.
Understanding how prescription drug prices are set will allow both patients and the state to make more informed decisions about whether prices are excessive, as well as introduce some rationality and evidence into the health care system.
Read more in Sean’s full report.
Exploring Police Spending in West Virginia
The slogan “defund the police,” acknowledges an emerging sentiment that state and local governments have spent and are currently spending too much on law enforcement and not enough on social services, mental health, housing, and education. Research suggests that spending on these and other upstream factors can lessen inequality within communities and reduce crime. To enhance this conversation, we reviewed some of the data on public safety spending in West Virginia.
Read the full post from Quenton and Bryan.
More Health Care, Not Less, Needed Amid Pandemic
Around the country, states are seeing dramatic increases in Medicaid enrollment as furloughed workers and their dependents lose their job-based health insurance and turn to Medicaid for coverage during the coronavirus pandemic.
Since March, West Virginia has seen an increase in Medicaid enrollment of approximately 24,000 people, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Of the approximately 130,000 West Virginians who’ve lost their health coverage during this crisis, many are likely eligible for Medicaid and could sign up any time for the program. One analysis estimated that anywhere from 69,000 to 143,000 West Virginians could newly enroll in Medicaid over the next several months.
And the economic and job effects of COVID-19 are not over. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that national unemployment will still be as high as 9.5% at the end of 2021 – nearly as high as at the height of the last recession, which began in 2008.
A recent national analysis estimated that, by January 2021, nearly 17 million new Americans will be eligible for Medicaid. Policymakers must be prepared for a drawn-out recovery for West Virginia and the rest of the country, with years until jobless numbers go back to where they were prior to the COVID-19 crisis. We can expect that, over this time, thousands more West Virginians will need Medicaid health coverage to stay healthy.
Read Kelly’s full op-ed here which ran this week in the Charleston-Gazette Mail.
ACA Repeal More Dangerous Than Ever for West Virginians During Pandemic and Economic Crisis
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting major recession, the Trump Administration and 18 state attorneys general, including West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, filed briefs this week asking the Supreme Court to strike down the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA). If the lawsuit succeeds, at least 162,000 West Virginians – and likely many more – would lose health coverage.
“The administration and AGs’ lawsuit has the potential to throw our health care system into complete chaos in the middle of a pandemic and economic recession,” said Jessica Ice, Executive Director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care. “Thousands of West Virginians, many with pre-existing health conditions, would lose coverage and many more would pay more for coverage or care.”
Research shows the ACA has improved access to care, financial security, and health outcomes – with strong evidence that both Medicaid expansion and coverage through the ACA marketplaces save lives. Reversing these coverage gains would be expected to worsen all of these outcomes, and the adverse effects would be even greater with more people depending on the ACA for coverage during the recession.
“The ACA has been critical to West Virginia’s ability to deal with both the pandemic and the resulting economic recession,” said Kelly Allen, interim deputy director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. “Striking down the law would impede efforts to end the public health crisis and deal with the fallout. West Virginia’s Attorney General Patrick Morrisey should immediately remove our state from this dangerous lawsuit.”
CARES Act Unemployment Provisions Should Be Extended While Need Remains
Thanks to the CARES Act that was passed in March, last week more than 82,000 unemployed West Virginian workers claimed unemployment benefits that were more generous than those they normally would have received, while thousands more were able to receive benefits who otherwise would have received no benefits at all.
However, if Congress does not act, the CARES Act’s boost in benefit levels will expire on July 31 and its eligibility expansions and additional weeks of benefits will expire on December 31, despite the reality that the support unemployed workers and the economy need will remain substantial.
The CARES Act provisions have helped and will continue to help tens of thousands of unemployed workers in West Virginia make it through this uncertain time before returning to work or finding a new job. Those workers, however, will be in a far worse financial position if they lose the weekly pandemic benefit supplement and revert to the meager regular state benefit.
Policymakers must ensure that unemployed workers are not left with little or no assistance while unemployment remains high, job prospects remain limited, and unemployment spells drag out longer than when the economy is stronger and unemployment is lower.
Read Sean’s full blog post here.
2,500 Organizations Sign Letter Urging Federal Government to Fight Food Insecurity by Investing in Increased SNAP Benefits
This week, nearly 2,500 undersigned national, regional, state, and local organizations urged immediate action to address the twin challenges of COVID-19 – protecting individuals and communities against hardship and jump-starting a strong economic recovery. SNAP benefit boosts can help limit the depth and duration of the human and economic tolls this crisis threatens to exact.
COVID-19 has exacerbated already too high levels of food insecurity in America. According to the Urban Institute, in the early weeks of the pandemic, one in five U.S. adults experienced food insecurity.
Sufficient and timely federal government action is needed to prevent even more human suffering and lost productivity in the short and longer terms.
It is urgent that Congress and the White House act now to provide 1) a 15 percent boost in the SNAP maximum benefit that would help all SNAP households; 2) an increase in the SNAP monthly minimum benefit from $16 to $30; and 3) a suspension of SNAP time limits and rules changes that would cut SNAP eligibility and benefits.
Congrats, Rosemary Ketchum!
Huge congratulations to our board member, Rosemary Ketchum, who recently won a seat on Wheeling’s City Council. Her victory marks a historic moment, as Rosemary will become the first openly transgender elected official in the state.
Rosemary has long been dedicated to combatting social and economic challenges present in West Virginia. We feel lucky to have her as a member of our team and look forward to seeing all that she accomplishes as a City Council member.
Read more on Rosemary’s victory here.
For more information on the impact of the pandemic on West Virginia’s economy, safety net, unemployment resources, and more, please visit our special website page.
Health Care for All Virtual Town Hall
Are you tired of struggling or watching friends and family struggle to get life-saving health care? Do you think health care is a human right? Do you agree that West Virginians deserve better? We do! We need your help.
Tune in for a Virtual Town Hall on Monday, June 29, 2020, at 6:00PM, to share your ideas and join the Health Care for All WV movement. We will be living streaming directly on social media.
Learn about the Health Care for All campaign and our three big victories so far this year.
Sponsors Sought for Upcoming Sessions on Race Matters in West Virginia