- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

Jan. 17

News and Sentinel, Parkersburg, W.Va., on state has been hit hard by Obamacare

West Virginians are going to pay more for health insurance under Obamacare than the president and his cronies insisted for years. That is virtually inevitable, as a report from the government itself shows.

For Obamacare to work, about 40 percent of those enrolling must be between 18-34 years of age. By paying unnecessarily high premiums because the program requires them to obtain coverage they don’t need, younger enrollees subsidize care for older people.

Obamacare promoters were not able to hit even half that 40-percent target in West Virginia. According to a government report issued Monday, only about 17 percent of insurance enrollees in the state are between 18-34.

Adding to the challenge is that 45 percent of West Virginia residents who have enrolled in Obamacare are between 55 and 64 years old. That group is especially expensive to insure.

No other state had a higher percentage of enrollees in the 55-64 age group, according to the government report. Wisconsin had the same 45 percent.

West Virginians who signed up (or tried to) for Obamacare already are suffering from sticker shock. For many, even with government subsidies, the only insurance they can afford is the Obamacare “bronze” plan. It pays only 60 percent of health care treatment costs - and carries a deductible of $5,081 ($10,386 for a family).

Obamacare already is a bad deal for most West Virginians. If premiums increase as a result of the government missing its target of 40-percent enrollment by young people, the cost will be even worse.

West Virginia’s delegation in Congress should take that as their cue to lead a coalition of Democrats and Republicans to repeal Obamacare. How much more bad news do they need to take action on behalf of constituents?




Jan. 21

The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, W.Va., on poverty-stricken areas have an opportunity for extra help:

Significant portions of West Virginia and Kentucky will soon have a new partner in trying to combat poverty in those regions.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture last week announced that 29 of West Virginia’s 55 counties and 73 of Kentucky’s 120 counties have been added to the agency’s anti-poverty program called StrikeForce. Included among the counties in West Virginia are Cabell, Wayne, Lincoln and Mason. Boyd and Lawrence counties are included in the USDA’s designation for Kentucky.

So what can these areas, which have poverty rates of 20 percent or higher, expect?

According to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, they shouldn’t expect federal representatives swooping in to dictate what should be done. Instead, StrikeForce works with local communities to identify projects or initiatives that can make a difference for residents, and the federal program then will strive to find resources to fulfill those needs, he said in announcing the program’s expansion.

That sounds like the preferable approach.

StrikeForce was launched in 2010 after the USDA recognized that poverty strikes hard in rural areas. Vilsack noted to reporters that about three-fourths of the 703 counties in the nation plagued by persistent poverty are in rural areas. For example, the average wage-earner in a rural county makes $6,500 a year less than an urban worker in the same region, he said. The result? “People in many rural areas feel disconnected from the rest of America and left out,” the agriculture secretary said.

StrikeForce strives to overcome that disconnect by pairing federal funds with local projects and their sponsoring organizations.

Projects have ranged from financing summer feeding programs for rural schools to providing farmers with funds for seasonal greenhouses and providing loans for rural housing.

Officials indicate that no specific amount of money will be headed into West Virginia and Kentucky because of the new designation, but applications from the chosen regions for competitive grants or funding will get preferential “points” in scoring of applications.

With a willing partner with resources, these areas could make some strides against poverty.




Jan. 20

Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette on 5.4 million: Smoking deaths yearly:

Incredibly, the World Health Organization says 5.4 million people around the planet suffer agonized early death each year because of tobacco smoking. Cigarettes are an international curse, the worst cause of unnecessary sickness and lost lifespan.

Tobacco firms are, in effect, drug pushers. Their profits depend on getting young people addicted to nicotine, a drug with a grip as powerful as that of heroin. As long as smokers are unable to break the addiction, tobacco profits roll in.

The latest New England Journal of Medicine says the world could avoid 200 million needless deaths by 2025 — and also gain trillions in tax revenue — if tobacco taxes were tripled worldwide, preventing millions of youths from becoming addicted.

Dr. Prabbat Jha, author of the new study, says France cut its tobacco consumption in half between 1990 and 2005 by imposing drastic tax increases. He commented:

“Death and taxes are inevitable, but they don’t need to be in that order. A higher tax on tobacco is the single most effective intervention to lower smoking rates and to deter future smokers.”

He added that the United States and Canada could reap $100 billion extra revenue each year if they merely doubled cigarette taxes.

Last year, U.N. countries set a global goal to curtail smoking by one-third by 2025 and reduce smoking-caused premature deaths by one-fourth. Sir Richard Peto, co-author of the study, observed:

“Young adult smokers will lose about a decade of life if they continue to smoke. They’ve so much to gain by stopping.”

Most American states have boosted taxes to prevent the young from becoming addicts. The U.S. average now is around $1.50 per pack. But West Virginia lags far behind, with just a 55-cent tax — the nation’s 44th lowest.

Each year, health reformers in the Legislature try to boost the state’s cigarette tax, but high-paid tobacco lobbyists defeat this lifesaving attempt. As a result, West Virginia continues to have America’s worst smoking rate — an ugly distinction.

With the 2014 Legislature in full swing, conscientious senators and delegates who oppose unnecessary sickness and death among West Virginians — and who see a need for extra revenue — should rally behind an effort to help this state catch up with the rest of America.



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