POINT PLEASANT — When U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, III (D), was in Point Pleasant recently, he received an “ear full” about many things, including the Affordable Care Act.
Glen Washington, CEO of Pleasant Valley Hospital, was at the meeting and expanded upon the discussion of how the Affordable Care Act affects rural hospitals and the people who utilize them.
Washington told Manchin, he felt the senator was in a unique position of understanding the legislation and its impact, having been governor when it was passed.
“West Virginia was one of the states that greatly benefited from the Affordable Health Care Act, and all of that came through the Medicaid expansion…you knew that this state had a lot of working poor…folks that were working and taking a paycheck but were uninsured. Through that Medicaid expansion, those people got some degree of health insurance and we in the medical community saw our charity care no-pay, go from a percentage to almost zero as a result…that’s part of the Affordable Care Act that needs to be protected and supported all across the country and especially in rural America.”
However, Washington said he felt the expansion program had been a “disaster.”
“Premiums have gone through the roof, coverage has shrunk, no one has benefited from it and that’s something that really needs to go away,” Washington said. “We need to figure out how to deal with insurance companies when it comes to health care, the only parties that are benefiting in health care in this country are insurance companies and that largely has to do with a monopoly system.”
Washington said with “only one game in town” in West Virginia being Highmark Blue Cross, he felt there needed to be competition introduced into the market.
“Those few insurance companies that hold that power are enriching themselves while they provide no value added to the health care system,” Washington said. “They are not touching patients, they are getting rich off this and something has to happen to bring some level of competition to insurance companies. Patients are suffering with premiums, providers are suffering because there’s no competition, there’s only one game in town.”
Washington said he was intrigued by tearing down the state borders in the health insurance industry.
“West Virginia could stand to benefit because we’re surrounded by other states,” Washington explained. “Small town medical providers anymore, and especially in West Virginia, have become the economic bedrock of those communities. Health care is a very complicated business. I think Washington DC needs some advice on how to deal with it and I don’t mean advice from insurance companies and the large medical providers, I think advice is needed from these small town, community hospitals.”
Manchin said he had heard President-Elect Donald Trump’s suggestions about breaking down those state borders when it comes to health care insurance providers and with 29 of West Virginia’s 55 counties bordering another state, he felt that was a “natural way to go.”
“It’s a tough system..the more competition into markets, the better we all are,” Manchin said. “That’s the simplest and easiest way because competition is out there.”
Painkillers and how they’re prescribed also was a topic with Lynne Fruth, CEO of Fruth Pharmacy, saying she felt more needed to be done to hold the American Medical Association accountable when it came to its approach to this issue. Fruth said, often, pharmacists are left to police this problem. Fruth added, she has reviewed data and the emergency room doctors at PVH were prescribing a “reasonable amount” of pain medication in relation to injuries and she commended them for that, as opposed to 30-day prescriptions for all painkillers.
“They’re doing 10 pills, 15 pills…here locally, we’re trying to do the right thing,” Fruth said.
Manchin agreed that the AMA is not held accountable and 30-day prescriptions had been written for pain medications for things like tooth extractions. Manchin also commended Fruth for voluntarily taking certain allergy medication commonly used in the making of methamphetamine, off the shelves of her pharmacy.
Reach Beth Sergent at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.