- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:


Aug. 2

Charleston Gazette on the effect interstate highways have on West Virginia:

Before the arrival of interstate highways and Appalachian corridors, West Virginia was partly off-limits for much of America. The maze of twisting, tortuous, two-lane mountain roads made the state almost impenetrable.

But the coming of four-lane freeways opened the Mountain State to the nation. Commerce and tourists can flow easily from border to border.

This barrier-removal is almost complete - except for a few segments of Corridor H, which travels 130 miles from Weston eastward to the Virginia border near the Shenandoah Valley. A stretch reaching Davis and the Canaan Valley is to open this summer. Others are scheduled to follow.

In a recent Gazette-Mail commentary, Corridor H Authority President Robbie Morris hailed the freeway as a pending economic bonanza. He said West Virginia trucks will flow to an inland port at Front Royal, Virginia - then their cargoes will go to the deep port at Norfolk - then through the widened Panama Canal to the world. He cited a 2013 study and wrote:

“Completing Corridor H by 2020 instead of West Virginia’s original goal of 2036 would create a $1.25 billion benefit to the area served by the highway, and it is estimated that construction itself will put that total over $2 billion. The road means more than just being connected; it’s about being connected to jobs and opportunity.”

However, the Moorefield Examiner reports that Virginia authorities seem to be balking about construction of a short link that would hook Corridor H into two interstate highways.

Although Virginia officials promised the federal government a few years ago to finish the segment before 2030, planning for the road has ceased and no Virginia politicians are requesting funds for it. The project seems to have slipped into limbo.

Morris told the Moorefield paper that completion of Corridor H in West Virginia will send a torrent of huge trucks into Virginia’s little two-lane roads, so “I am confident that Virginia will see the benefit of finishing their portion.”

West Virginia’s members of Congress should exert pressure to ensure that Virginia keeps its promise to complete Corridor H, as West Virginia is doing.




Aug. 2

The Inter-Mountain (of Elkins) on Hillary Clinton affecting West Virginia:

Gas and oil drilling has been one of the few bright spots in the economies of West Virginia and East Ohio during the past few years. Hillary Clinton and her fellow Democrat liberals want to take that away from us, too.

For years, miners and coal companies warned those benefiting from the drilling revolution that they should not rejoice in the liberals’ assault on coal. The gas and oil industries were next, they were cautioned.

Many involved in drilling wells and processing their output scoffed. Why, one way President Barack Obama and other environmental radicals defended their agenda was to insist that when coal-fired power plants closed, they could be replaced by generating units using plentiful natural gas.

Indeed, that very thing is happening, even in our area.

But now the White House - and, more important, Democrat presidential nominee Hillary Clinton - believe the war on coal is all but won. It is time to move on.

As the Democratic Party’s platform for this year’s elections makes clear, they plan to waste no time.

It may be remembered that for some time, the radicals warned that we had to slash carbon dioxide emissions to slow global warming. Now, methane, a component of natural gas, is on the hit list.

“Democrats believe that carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases should be priced to reflect their negative externalities,” the platform reads. Translation: Clinton and company will do all in their power to increase the price of producing and consuming natural gas. Obama’s administration already has begun the process.

As many in our area understand, the drilling revolution that is producing previously undreamed-of quantities of domestic gas and oil would not have occurred without hydraulic fracturing technology, often referred to as fracking. It, too, is covered in the Democrat platform, which calls for regulation of the practice by the Environmental Protection Agency. We don’t need to tell you what that means.

All this - killing coal and affordable electricity, then doing the same to natural gas - is the public face Clinton and Democrat leaders are putting forth. It is bad enough.

But Clinton and her party’s officials can be even more brutal in their private communications about the issues, as we know from recent events. That may lead some to wonder about the nature of a whole different class of emails.




Aug. 2

The (Huntington) Herald-Dispatch on how costly drugs affect Medicare drug program:

A part of the Medicare prescription drug program intended to help limit how much senior citizens and the disabled pay for drugs is providing less and less protection in that regard, and it’s also driving up the potential costs for taxpayers, too.

The segment at issue is Medicare’s “catastrophic” prescription coverage, which was intended when designed more than a decade ago to protect seniors with multiple chronic conditions from the high costs of taking many different medications.

Under the program, people covered by Medicare pay only 5 percent toward drug costs after they spent $4,850 of their own money each year.

But the advent of specialty drugs that cost more than $1,000 a day has changed that.

The Associated Press reported recently that the overall cost of catastrophic prescription coverage increased 85 percent in three years to a total of $51.3 billion in 2015. While the pharmaceutical industry disputes the total because its rebates aren’t disclosed and therefore are not known, there’s probably little dispute about the rate of increase.

Telling is the role that high-priced specialty drugs play in these numbers.

Medicare’s Part D benefit covers about 2,700 drugs, but just two drugs used to combat hepatitis C infection accounted for nearly $7.5 billion of the catastrophic drug costs in 2015, the AP said. One pill, which is to be taken daily, costs $1,000 while the other costs $1,125. According to a congressional investigation last year, the maker of one of the pills was focused on maximizing revenue, even though a company analysis showed that a lower price would allow more patients to be treated. The manufacturer of another drug on the top 10 list - one used to treat leukemia - has been criticized for repeatedly raising the price of the drug, according to the AP.

As for the patients who reach the threshold for catastrophic coverage, their spending on drugs averaged $9,666 in 2013 but rose by 46 percent to $14,100 in 2015, according to data from Medicare’s Office of the Actuary. And taxpayers? The way the program is set up, 80 percent of the costs that exceed the catastrophic threshold are picked up by Medicare rather than insurers, and that means taxpayers are liable for footing that bill.

In trying to control these costs, Medicare is at a disadvantage. Federal law prohibits it from negotiating directly with the pharmaceutical companies for lower prices. That’s an option that insurers have, as do state and federal governments when it comes to drugs used by Medicaid programs and the Department of Veteran Affairs for treating the nation’s veterans.

Considering that the government and those covered by Medicare are paying spiraling prices for these specialty drugs for which there currently are few alternatives, it’s time for lawmakers to rethink the ban on Medicare negotiating prices. The current structure puts seniors and taxpayers at risk financially, and also threatens the viability of the Medicare program that so many people count on.



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