Jan. 27—MORGANTOWN — Legislators passed bills on Wednesday to lower patient copays for insulin and devices to treat diabetes, to establish a Parkinson's disease registry to enhance research at WVU, and to create a mining mutual insurance company to aid the coal industry and protect state finances.
House bills HB 4252 lowers the copay for a 30-day supply of insulin from $100 to $30 ; sets a $100 cap for a 30-day supply of devices, defined as blood glucose test strips, glucometers, continuous glucometers, lancets, lancing devices and insulin syringes ; and limits the copay for an insulin pump to $250 once every two years.
Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, has been a leading advocate for lowering copays for patients with diabetes for several years and co-sponsored the bill.
"I am so thankful for this bill because it will truly save lives, " she said. She thanked all those who've made the bill possible. "We have the highest death rate from diabetes in the whole country. Let's do something about it and make this state a better place for all of our citizens."
Delegate John Kelley, R-Wood, said he is a Type 2 diabetic and just picked up his insulin supply, with an $800 copay. He supported the bill but also asked about his right to vote on the bill given his status ; the speaker said he was a member of a class of five or more and directed him to vote.
Delegate Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, said she is also a Type 2 diabetic and has to make do without unaffordable devices she needed to properly administer her insulin. She's changed her eating habits and now doesn't need insulin.
But, she said, the bill shows the public, "We support health care. We support affordable health care."
It passed 94-3 and goes to the Senate. All local delegates voted for it.
HB 4276 empowers WVU to create the Parkinson's registry to help track the prevalence of the neurodegenerative disease in the state.
Patients may opt out of being listed. The registry will not include any patient identifying information. WVU may share the data with other registries.
Health vice-chair Matthew Rohrbach, R-Cabell and a physician, said WVU has a world-renowned center for the study and care of neurodegenerative diseases with the Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute and this bill will aid its work.
It passed 91-6 and goes to the Senate. All local delegates voted for it.
Senate action SB 1 is Senate President Craig Blair's mining mutual bill.
The state funds reclamation at abandoned mines through a combination of bond proceeds and money from the Special Reclamation Fund under the Surface Mining Control Reclamation Act. The bill creates the mining mutual as a domestic, private corporation, in the same manner the Physicians Mutual in 2003 and BrickStreet in 2005 — for Workers Compensation — were previously created.
Because it will not be a state entity, all premiums collected are subject to taxation. Participation is voluntary. A special revenue account will be created under the Department of Environmental Protection called the Mining Mutual Insurance Company Fund and be initially supplied with $50 million — the source of that money to be determined but not from the Special Reclamation Fund.
Blair, R-Berkeley, stepped down from the president's dais to explain his support for the bill to the members. He repeated much of what he previously told Senate Finance. A recent legislative audit says the state faces an $8 billion liability for mine reclamation, though he puts it lower at up to $4 billion.
Just one company, he said, holds 60 % of the reclamation bonds in 13 states. If it would go under it would spell disaster for the mining industry and the state budget.
"This bill will actually help protect West Virginia, " he said — the mining companies, severance taxes and its baseload energy supply. "If we wouldn't do this, then it's just a roulette wheel.
It passed 32-0 and goes to the House.
SB 427 enables the state Board of Medicine to authorize its investigators to carry firearms for self-defense, providing they have a concealed carry permit and undergo training. They will not be empowered to make arrests.
It also passed 32-0.
Sen. Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, has been absent most of the session and was permitted to vote by proxy on Wednesday. Maroney represents the 2nd District, which includes northern and western Monongalia County and western Marion.
Blair's office said he was initially absent because of work conflicts — he is a radiologist — but then acquired COVID. A Senate rule adopted to allow senators with COVID to vote by proxy has taken effect, allowing Maroney to vote while he recuperates.
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