Candidates address health issues at forum

September 24, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Fourteen state House of Delegates candidates who appeared at the Holiday Inn Monday night to discuss health care-related topics agreed on some issues - like imposing a higher tax on cigarettes - but disagreed on others.

The following candidates were on hand: Incumbent Charles Trump IV, Republican, 51st District, and his challenger, Barbara Tutor, Mountain Party; Democrat Craig Shibley and Republican Craig Blair, who are vying for the 52nd District; Democrat Dale Buck and Republican Walter Duke, who are vying for the 54th; incumbent John Overington, R-55th, and his challenger, Vince George, Mountain Party; Democrat Robert Tabb and Republican James Whitacre, vying for the 56th; incumbent John Doyle, D-57th, and his challenger, Republican Dave Ebbitt; and incumbent Dale Manuel, D-58th, and his challenger, Republican Fred Blackmer.

Incumbent Larry Faircloth, R-53rd, who is running unopposed, and Vicky Law, Trump's Democratic challenger, did not attend.

Not a debate, the event was instead an opportunity for each candidate to answer seven questions, within 60 or 90 seconds.


Candidates were first asked how they believe Medicaid funds should be generated, since the state last year lost $88 million because of a low reimbursement rate.

Trump said he does not want to fund it with a provider tax, while Shibley, Overington and Blackmer said what's needed is a better economy, which would allow people to get jobs and health care insurance. Tutor and George said they favor a universal health care system.

"I think indigent populations should be treated the same as everyone else," Tutor said.

Tabb, who has been an EMT for 18 years, said people need to be educated on when an ambulance is really necessary. If an ambulance is unnecessarily called, others could end up footing the bill, he said.

Ebbitt is a physician at City Hospital in Martinsburg, one of the three hospitals that hosted the event. The others were Jefferson Memorial in Ranson, W.Va., and War Memorial Hospital in Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

"You either have to cut benefits or increase money into the program," Ebbitt said.

Murmurs ran through the crowd during one answer to the second question, which dealt with an expected deficit in the Public Employees Insurance Agency, or PEIA as it is known.

After several incumbents voiced their suggestions, Shibley spoke heatedly. "What have they done?" he asked, saying the delegates have been in the Legislature for years but have not solved the problem.

Trump, who spoke after Shibley, said premiums should be increased, and choices should be made about whether services such as acupuncture should be covered.

All the candidates agreed that a "sin tax" on cigarettes should be increased from the current 17 cents per pack. Doyle said he would favor an increase as high as $1 per pack. Buck said he agreed to the tax "with reluctance."

The candidates also agreed that $1.7 billion coming to the state over the next 25 years from tobacco settlements should be used for health care-related issues, such as prevention, education, cessation programs or, as Ebbitt said, infrastructure improvements at health care facilities.

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