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Letters to the Editor

March 04, 1999

Employees must be partners

To the editor:

Rising health care costs are an epidemic facing the entire nation. In certain respects, as incredible as this may sound, that is a good thing, because new technologies and treatments are available to our citizens which prolong and improve the quality of life.

Yet, we know that such advances come with a price tag and yes, we all pay for it.

It is also true that there are certain areas of escalating health care costs which cannot be so easily justified and for which controls should be adopted. Anyone who has recently had a prescription filled knows that the cost of pharmaceuticals have skyrocketed. It is the fastest growing line item for both of West Virginia's publicly funded health care programs, PEIA and Medicaid. The same may be said across every state in the nation.

That's why the WVEA believes that legislation which addresses PEIA's drug program by limiting increases in the pricing of pharmaceuticals to the consumer price index should be passed. The WVEA also advocates more aggressive negotiations with manufacturers, be it in the form of rebates or discounting.

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Yet, the WVEA cannot support the simple, let's-make-public-employees-pay-more remedy. It is our belief that copayments and deductibles borne by employees not only hurt the beneficiaries, but miss the mark. Copayments will not limit price gouging. Copayments will not limit pharmaceutical profits. Copayments, might, however, limit an individual's access to a needed drug, causing illness or increased health care expenditures.

The WVEA has requested and we hope to receive documentation addressing "inappropriate utilization." Absent the specifics, what has been communicated thus far relates primarily to emergency room usage.

However, in West Virginia, the primary causes of inappropriate utilization do not relate to patient preference, but rather a lack of access. How many of you would choose to wait for hours in an emergency room for care, if given a choice?

West Virginia is a medically underserved state. Particularly in rural communities, there are few primary care physicians and limited access to clinics and primary care centers. If indeed, emergency room usage is the primary utilization problem faced by the PEIA, then let us address the infrastructure issues that could help to resolve it. Greater usage of mobile clinics, county health departments, primary care centers, cooperative agreements for shared facilities, intensified use of physician assistants and nurse practitioners should be a part of and contribute to the development of long term solutions to PEIA.

Public employees have always done their share to keep PEIA solvent. Public employees do not set provider payments and do not manage the program. They also do not set the rate review process, nor do they control the certificate-of-need program that determines who will provide health care. And public employees were certainly not the ones who failed to provide increased funding for PEIA in five of the last eight years.

Public employees want to be part of the solution. However, until we are allowed to become partners in the process, and until we are provided peer review actuarial information that is crucial to finding a long-range solution, the WVEA cannot support changes in the program that penalize those who need health insurance the most.

Tom Lange

WVEA President

What's Maryland really like?

To the editor:

Our fourth grade class from Gifford Grade School is studying the United States. We would like your help.

We would like your readers to send us postcards or letters telling us about your state. Thanks for your help. Please send the information to: Fourth Grade U.S.A. Project, Gifford Grade School No. 188, 406 S. Main, Gifford, Ill. 61847.

EricaJoy B. Diay

Gifford, Ill.

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