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West Virginia In A Healthcare Crisis: Time for a Reality Check

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In a disconcerting revelation, West Virginia finds itself engulfed in a severe healthcare crisis. Despite ranking relatively high in accessibility, the state’s health outcomes are alarmingly the worst in the nation. With soaring rates of preventable deaths, staggering diabetes mortalities, and exorbitant average private health insurance premiums, West Virginia is in dire need of comprehensive healthcare reforms.

“West Virginia has the worst health care in the nation.” Deb Gordon – MoneyGeek – April 2, 2023

West Virginia scored a 1.0 in Moneygeek’s study which put the state solidly in last place. The next lowest was 33.4. Said another way, healthcare could improve by 3000% and West Virginia would still be dead last.

Health Outcomes: A Disturbing Reality

West Virginia’s health outcomes paint a bleak picture of the state’s overall well-being. Garnering the unenviable title of the worst state for health outcomes, the statistics reveal a distressing panorama of disease rates, risk factors (such as obesity and smoking), preventable deaths, and infant mortality. The shocking figure of 126 preventable deaths per 100,000 residents demands immediate attention to address the systemic issues that hinder preventive measures and access to essential healthcare services. West Virginia’s population deserves a robust, diversified healthcare system capable of delivering improved outcomes and well-being.

The Diabetes Epidemic

West Virginia grapples with a formidable challenge in the realm of diabetes. Touting the highest rate of diabetes mortalities per 100,000 residents, the state faces a mounting public health crisis. To combat this relentless foe, effective diabetes management programs and widespread education initiatives must be implemented. Additionally, increasing access to affordable healthcare services and empowering individuals with the knowledge and resources necessary for prevention and management are crucial steps towards curbing this alarming trend. Collaboration between healthcare providers, policymakers, and the community is imperative to effectively address the diabetes epidemic in West Virginia.

Preventable Deaths: An Unacceptable Toll

West Virginia’s troubling rate of preventable deaths serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need for comprehensive healthcare improvements. Ranking at the top with the highest rates of preventable deaths per 100,000 residents, the state bears witness to avoidable tragedies that signify underlying systemic issues within its healthcare infrastructure. Enhanced preventive care measures, focused public health campaigns, and timely access to high-quality healthcare services are vital components in reducing the burden of preventable deaths and enhancing the overall well-being of West Virginians.

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The Burden of Cost

The cost of healthcare in West Virginia weighs heavily on its residents. The state boasts the highest average private health insurance premiums in the United States, standing at a staggering $8,546 per year. This financial strain creates significant barriers to accessing essential healthcare services and threatens the financial stability of individuals and families. Mitigating the burden of healthcare costs requires innovative approaches, including promoting transparency, exploring options for expanding Medicaid coverage, and fostering competition among insurance providers to drive down premiums and make healthcare more affordable for all West Virginians.

The Challenge of Access

Despite its relatively high accessibility ranking, West Virginia still faces significant challenges in ensuring equitable healthcare access for all its residents. While the state demonstrates a respectable number of primary care providers and hospital beds, the reality of high uninsured rates and reported difficulties in obtaining necessary care highlights disparities in access. Addressing these issues necessitates comprehensive reforms, including expanding healthcare infrastructure, improving insurance coverage, and implementing policies that facilitate care coordination and reduce barriers to access.

The Impact of Certificate of Need

West Virginia’s healthcare landscape is further complicated by the presence of the Certificate of Need (CON) policy. This policy restricts the establishment of new healthcare facilities and services, potentially exacerbating the challenges highlighted above. A reevaluation of the CON policy is crucial to foster innovation, enhance competition, and encourage the development of healthcare resources that meet the evolving needs of West Virginia’s population.

A Call for Urgent Action

West Virginia’s healthcare crisis demands immediate attention and concerted efforts from policymakers, healthcare providers, and the community at large. By focusing on improving health outcomes, tackling the diabetes epidemic, reducing preventable deaths, alleviating the financial burden of healthcare, and ensuring equitable access, the state can forge a path toward a healthier future for its residents. It is imperative to implement comprehensive reforms that prioritize the well-being of every West Virginian, leaving no one behind in the pursuit of better healthcare.

WVCEO.com will begin a multi-part focus on the state of healthcare in West Virginia.

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A link to the Moneygeek.com report can be found here.

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Leadership WV takes a closer look at state’s health care system

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Lewisburg, – With a goal of increasing awareness and understanding of the facilities, opportunities and medical philosophy at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM), Leadership West Virginia brought its 2023 class to the school’s campus Oct. 26 for tours and presentations.

WVSOM President James W. Nemitz, Ph.D., spoke to the Leadership class prior to members touring the teaching facilities.

“We are a leader in educating physicians for primary care medicine, especially in rural areas,” Nemitz said, noting that WVSOM is the state’s largest medical school, with an annual enrollment of more than 800 students.

Attracting West Virginia’s best pre-med students is a goal for WVSOM, Nemitz said, encouraging the Leadership West Virginia class members to recommend students to the school. The presentation included two videos: one on the values of osteopathic medicine and the other on why and how students should apply to WVSOM.

To a 2023 class that comprised 58 leaders from across the state, Nemitz spoke about WVSOM’s impact on West Virginia.

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According to the school’s 2023 annual report, 850 WVSOM graduates were practicing in the state in 2022.

While noted for producing primary care physicians, the school also has graduates practicing in many specialties, Nemitz said.

He said that in addition to the school’s medical value, WVSOM represents a significant economic impact on the state and nation.

“We’re delivering more than $133 million to the state in direct contributions. When you add the contributions of our alumni who practice in the state, the health care delivery hours they’re generating and our students are generating, we hit more than $1.5 billion in West Virginia. And nationwide, it’s $9 billion,” he said.

The campus tour started with HealthNet Aeromedical Services landing a helicopter on the campus parade field for a presentation on HealthNet’s services and operation.

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Earlier in the day, Nemitz joined Sherri Ferrell of the West Virginia Primary Care Association; Steve Seftchick of Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield WV and Melanie Dempsey of the West Virginia Hospital Association for a panel discussion on the challenges of health care. Tony Gregory of the West Virginia Hospital Association moderated the question-and-answer session.

Health care is one of the areas of focus for Leadership West Virginia. Others include education, tourism, energy, the judicial system and the overall economy.

Full story here from The Register Herald

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Gov. Justice breaks ground, announces new Charles Calvin Rogers Veterans Nursing Facility in Beckley

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Governor's Office

Governor’s Press Office

BECKLEY, WV — Last week, Gov. Jim Justice led a groundbreaking event for a much-anticipated new veterans nursing facility in Beckley. Gov. Justice joined veterans, state and elected officials, project managers, and directors from the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance for the ceremony.

Gov. Justice also announced that the facility will be named in honor of a Southern West Virginia Vietnam Veteran and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient: Fayette County native Charles Calvin Rogers. U.S Army Major General Rogers, a native of Claremont who died in 1990, earned the Medal of Honor following acts of heroism that took place near the Cambodian border on November 1, 1968.

“This is a truly special day for West Virginia and for our veterans, especially our veterans in Southern West Virginia,” Gov. Justice said. “This facility is going to be one of the best in the country, and it should be, because that’s what our veterans deserve. It’s especially meaningful because we get to honor General Charles Calvin Rogers, who is a true American military hero and one of our own.”

Read the entire story here: Gov. Justice breaks ground, announces naming of Charles Calvin Rogers Veterans Nursing Facility (wv.gov)

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Dr. PS Martin Named Director of WV Office of Emergency Medical Services

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Dr. Matt Christiansen, State Health Officer and Commissioner of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources’ (DHHR) Bureau for Public Health, today announces Dr. PS Martin as medical director for DHHR’s Office of Emergency Medical Services (OEMS), effective June 23, 2023. He replaces Dr. Beth Toppins, who served as interim OEMS medical director since April 2023.

“Dr. Martin brings a wealth of knowledge to this critical position with hands-on experience as a physician in emergency departments and as the medical director for multiple EMS agencies,” said Dr. Matthew Christiansen. “His unique and specialized background in the field of emergency medical services will be an asset to West Virginia, and will continue the work of Dr. Toppins. We are grateful for her service during a period of transition.”

Dr. Martin is an associate professor of emergency medicine at WVU’s School of Medicine and an emergency room physician at WVU Ruby Memorial Hospital, and is certified by both the American Board of Emergency Medicine and the American Board of Emergency Medicine Specializing in Emergency Medical Services. Dr. Martin earned his doctor of medicine degree and bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University. 

“I am honored to lead this office, which does incredible work to support West Virginia’s EMS systems and residents,” said Dr. Martin. “I look forward to working with OEMS staff and partners to  optimize the quality of emergency care across the state and improve the job satisfaction of our dedicated EMS providers.”

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