West Virginia editorial roundup
Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
Charleston Gazette on Affordable Care Act enrollment:
It was reported last week that 4,700 West Virginians had newly enrolled for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. That’s down from about 6,600 over the same period of time last year.
There is a combination of factors at play, including some recipients whose insurance automatically renews through the ACA. But there are also major hindrances, including the lack of advertising letting people know that the open enrollment period is here and will last through Dec. 15. Why? Because the federal government cut the budget for the plan’s information campaign in West Virginia from $600,000 to $100,000.
This is happening in other states as well. Also, the enrollment time frame has been shortened, so those who rely on the ACA for insurance have less time to sign up.
After Obama’s signature policy was put in place, Republicans based their political platforms on getting it repealed. Multiple meaningless votes were taken to scrap the plan during Obama’s presidency. President Trump, while campaigning, said it would be one of his first priorities to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something else, noting more than once it would be “so easy” or “so simple.”
But after 2016, with a majority in both chambers of Congress and Trump in the White House, the GOP still couldn’t pull it off. Turns out, many Americans (hundreds of thousands in West Virginia) rely on the ACA for health insurance and, even if it’s not the most popular plan, most don’t want to go back to a system where insurance companies can deny coverage for pre-existing conditions.
“So simple” literally became “Who knew it would be so hard?”
Multiple times, as Trump failed to deliver on this key promise, the president threatened to let the ACA fall apart by not funding it. While this was an ultimate failure as well, the Trump administration has done what it can to make the system difficult. Like many things with Trump, this seems to have come from sheer meanness and petty spite after failing to secure a political victory.
As is so often the case in these situations, it’s the people who suffer. The ACA is by no means perfect, but it sure beats the alternative of having to pay medical costs out of pocket because an insurance company is able to deny coverage. Politicians should be providing the program with more funding and better access for their constituents.
In the meantime, for more information on the ACA and options for health insurance call 1-844-WV-CARES to speak to an insurance navigator or visit healthcare.gov before Dec. 15.
The Intelligencer Wheeling News-Register on a new campaign against drug abuse:
Gov. Jim Justice had it right Monday in announcing a new campaign against drug abuse in West Virginia.
During a visit to Huntington, which seems to have had some success in battling substance abuse, Justice announced a new executive director of the state Office of Drug Control Policy. He is Bob Hansen, who has been Marshall University’s director of addiction studies.
Give Justice credit for not doing things halfway. He also has issued an executive order creating the Council on Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment. It will be chaired by Brian Gallagher, also of Marshall. Gallagher is a pharmacist, lawyer and former state legislator.
Justice’s plan is for the office and the council to work together to help local communities battle the drug crisis. Huntington’s campaign reportedly is being considered as a template for statewide use.
A new emphasis on substance abuse certainly is timely. During the weekend, another analysis of the epidemic nationwide — with a focus on West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania — was released. It came from the Trust for America’s Health and the Well Being Trust.
Using previously revealed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the two nonprofit organizations noted that in 2017, for the third consecutive year, life expectancy in this country decreased. Fatalities due to drug overdoses and suicides linked to substance abuse played a role.
And, the new study noted, the tri-state area is ground zero in the epidemic. Once again last year, West Virginia had the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation, by far. It was 57.8 fatalities per 100,000 residents. Ohio was No. 2 at 46.3, with Pennsylvania third at 44.3.
Obviously, then, this is an emergency requiring decisive action. But you knew that.
Justice is right to attempt to take such action. But his is not the first attempt to turn back the tide of death and misery.
His attitude toward the new initiative makes it clear the governor is fully aware of the potential his action will not end the crisis. “I don’t know if this next step will fix it, but if it won’t, then we need to do the next and the next and the next,” Justice said Monday.
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel on dashcam video and alleged officers’ beating of teenage boy:
Two West Virginia State Police troopers and a Berkeley County sheriff’s deputy have been suspended while an alleged beating incident is investigated. That is being handled by three separate agencies.
On the night of Nov. 19, a 16-year-old boy allegedly struck a sheriff’s department cruiser in Berkeley County. After a chase, the youth’s car crashed and he was taken into custody.
Last week, Gov. Jim Justice said a video recording of the incident “shows the suspect being beaten by two troopers.”
State Police Superintendent Jan Cahill told a reporter the video, from a camera mounted on a sheriff’s cruiser, “immediately raised excessive force questions with us.”
Law enforcement personnel often have to deal with suspects who resist arrest. The question of how much force is required to subdue them sometimes is not easy to answer.
In this case, however, Cahill seems concerned. “When you watch a video and you just don’t see a level of resistance much, that’s where we’re at,” he commented.
For now, the video recording is not being released. That is understandable. Investigators need to ensure allowing the press and public to view it would not jeopardize any criminal proceedings.
But Cahill seems to be implying that the recording will be released eventually. Good.
As soon as possible, members of the public should be given the opportunity to view the recording — and decide for themselves whether excessive force was used.