The Senate Health and Human Resources Committee reviewed a legislative finding Thursday that determined West Virginia suffers from a lack of practicing physicians. The finding is the basis for SB120, which creates a tax credit for certain physicians to locate in this state to practice.
“This creates a crisis in the delivery of health care services to one of the unhealthiest populations in the nation,” the report said. “As a state, we need to seek ways to attract qualified physicians to locate here to provide our citizens necessary health care services and to promote the general good health of this state.”
SB120 provides criteria, establishes education requirements, and sets a time limit to claim the tax credit and the length of residency requirements.
Senator Tom Takubo, a physician, took exception with the fiscal note that stated the tax credit would result in a loss of tax revenue of $9 million based on the number of graduates from West Virginia medical schools.
“The vast majority of physicians don’t stay,” Senator Takubo said.
Senator Ron Stollings, also a physician, concurred, saying only one in five students who complete a residency in West Virginia stay in the state.
“This is a great recruiting tool,” Senator Stollings said of the bill. “We have to have tools in the toolbox to replace physicians my age when the time comes.”
Senator Takubo said the tax credit will come back to the state in the form of property taxes and money spent in West Virginia.
The bill passed but will also go to Finance.
Committee passes anti-smoking legislation
SB139 adds a new section, designated §16-9A-11, to prohibit smoking of tobacco products in a motor vehicle while an individual 16 years of age or younger is present.
Senator Robert Karnes of Randolph County on Thursday objected to the bill on the grounds of it infringing on constitutional rights.
Senator Mike Azinger of Wood County added: “I have a God-given right to be sovereign over my children. This is the state interjecting itself as the parental authority.”
Senator Tom Takubo, lead sponsor, said the premise of the bill came from a patient who lost half her lung function but never smoked. Her father was a three-pack-a-day smoker, and she had no way to escape the smoke in the car.
“Smoking is the number one single preventable cause of death in the U.S.,” Senator Takubo said.
In response to individual and constitutional freedoms, Takubo said: “My freedom stops when it bleeds over onto your freedom,” emphasizing that the parent is harming the child who is trapped in a confined space.
Senator Azinger asked Senator Takubo, a pulmonologist, if the science on secondhand smoke is 100% accurate. He compared it to the science of wearing masks.
Takubo responded that it is in hundreds of well-documented studies.
After a lively discussion, the bill passed and will go to Judiciary.
Bill addresses health care decisions
The last health-related bill for the committee was SB470, relating to health care decisions
Forms for a living will, medical power of attorney, and combined medical power of attorney and living will are revised.
Language is added regarding the effect of signing a living will on the availability of medically administered food and fluids and requiring oral food and fluids to be provided as desired and tolerated.
Reciprocity with other states for forms is provided.
Mary Tillman, Vice President of West Virginians for Life, said the bill updates several references and removes “persistent vegetative state” from code. She said neurological studies have shown those patients may have a minimal level of consciousness, and there are new treatments. She emphasized that one sentence added to the code was important: “Life prolonging intervention includes CPR, dialysis, breathing machines, and food and fluids.”
Danielle Funk Sollenberger from the West Virginia Center for End of Life Care said all the forms were voluntary and don’t go into effect until the person can no longer speak for himself or herself.
“This bill is beneficial to protect autonomy for patients and reduce confusion for providers,” Ms. Sollenberger said.
She told the committee that forms can be sent to the registry at the Center for End of Life Care, which makes them available from its data base. The bill passed and will go to Judiciary.
Bill supports higher pay for Bureau attorneys
The Senate Health and Human Resources Committee passed a short bill Thursday that would increase minimum salaries for Bureau for Child Support Enforcement attorneys from $45,000 to $75,000 per year. The bill will also go to the Finance Committee.
Bill reduces size of Board of Medicine
Passage of Committee Substitute for SB138 would reduce the composition of the West Virginia Board of Medicine by one member. In conformity with the proportionality principles, one of the two podiatric physician members is eliminated.