- Associated Press - Monday, September 11, 2017

Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:

Akron Beacon Journal, Sep. 10

The effort to stabilize the online insurance exchanges has begun on Capitol Hill. Governors and state insurance commissioners shared their views with a Senate committee last week. The consensus, beyond the need for cost-sharing reduction payments, reinsurance mechanisms and greater flexibility for states? Keep the money flowing to outreach and enrollment initiatives.



Unfortunately, the Trump White House, just days earlier, announced plans to slash the advertising budget for the upcoming enrollment period. The funding would go from the current $100 million to $10 million next year. More, federal support for “navigators,” hired by nonprofit organizations to guide people through the individual market, would be reduced 40 percent, from $62.5 million to $36.8 million.

These initiatives serve as the primary vehicles for enhancing awareness, understanding and boosting the number of people who gain health coverage. Contrary to the claims of the Trump administration, they have been successful.

Researchers from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Wesleyan Media Project recently looked at Kentucky, where a change in governors saw a dramatic shift. The state went from an aggressive program to promote enrollment to practically none at all.

No surprise that enrollment levels have declined. The researchers found that television advertising proved the most effective.

State-based exchanges, as in Kentucky, must support their own outreach. California spends roughly $100 million a year, or a sum equivalent to what the federal government has devoted to Ohio and the three dozen other states using the federal exchange.

Now cut by 90 percent?

Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services argue that consumers already are familiar with the exchanges. Yet this has been such a confusing time, the White House and the department casting much doubt about the exchanges, along with shrinking the enrollment period by six weeks.

If anything, outreach is more important. Recall the start of the Trump presidency, the administration ditching a last-minute advertising campaign, and enrollment numbers falling off.

Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, the executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, has seen how well the navigator concept has worked. She greeted the news about sharply reduced support with testimonials about navigators helping families after the loss of employer-based insurance, individuals making the transition from Medicaid and workers back in school to upgrade their skills who need coverage for a time.

If the goal is to see the exchanges succeed, then it follows many will need help with something as complex as health insurance. Success depends, more than anything, on achieving a balanced risk pool, between the healthier and sicker. That, too, goes to outreach and enrollment programs. When they deliver, premiums increases are more manageable, coverage more accessible and affordable.

Online: https://bit.ly/2vORCZ1

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Findlay Courier, Sep. 8

Any legislation that sets aside half a million dollars of taxpayer money for anything, even something as necessary as new utility lines, deserves more than a quick trip through Findlay City Council.

But that happened this week when council rushed passage of a bill that made the city a partner in the construction of a waterline and sanitary sewer extension with One Energy at 12385 Township Road 215, north of Findlay.

The cost to the city to help extend the lines more than 2,000 feet into the county to One Energy’s property will be $456,105.

Officials maintained it was necessary to push the bill through on one reading, instead of the usual three, because crews were available to dig and because of the possibility of future economic development in the same area as One Energy.

The project got the green light after Councilman Grant Russel made a motion to suspend the second and third readings of the bill. Russel’s request passed 9-2, and by a similar vote, council gave the go-ahead to proceed.

The two nay votes were cast by council members Holly Frische and Jeff Wobser.

Frishe, who chairs council’s Water and Sewer Committee, had gone to the Appropriations Committee meeting about a month ago with several concerns and questions about the One Energy project. She said she was advised that council would be provided the answers before Tuesday’s meeting.

Frishe voted no, she said, because the answers never came before the votes were taken.

One question both Frishe and Wobser had, was whether Whirlpool Corp. may want to partner with the city and One Energy and tie into the proposed utility lines. Whirlpool’s involvement could have reduced the city’s investment in the project.

Frishe also requested a more detailed breakdown of the project costs, including a separation of the material and labor costs. In the past, the city has usually paid for materials involved in extensions that go into non-annexed land, but not the labor.

Certainly, the information may have been useful to council.

Emergency legislation is OK in certain situations, such as paying bills and other routine matters, but it should rarely be put in play when big-ticket projects come up.

Some economic development situations may be an exception to the three-reading rule, too, especially if time is truly of the essence. But there’s been no indication yet that additional business would be locating near One Energy, which will be the only beneficiary of the city utilities.

Council appears to have again rubber-stamped legislation worthy of more thorough public airing. Worse yet, by fast-tracking the infrastructure project, council may have agreed to spending considerably more money than the city needed to.

Online: https://bit.ly/2jgWjZI

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The (Toledo) Blade, Sep. 10

Solving the opioid epidemic in Toledo and around Ohio certainly will not be as easy as winning a courtroom victory against pharmaceutical companies. But a judgment or a settlement in such a case could go a long way toward funding the larger fight and holding those companies accountable for their part in the crisis.

Toledo Democratic mayoral candidate Wade Kapszukiewicz says the city should join Dayton, Cincinnati, Lorain, Findlay, and others that have sued large drug makers.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed a lawsuit against five drug manufacturers in May.

Those lawsuits filed this summer blame the companies’ negligent marketing of dangerous painkillers for the current opioid epidemic that killed more than 4,000 Ohioans in 2016.

Incumbent Democratic Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson - who has been in office for about two and a half years as the epidemic raged on - said she did not have an opinion, but would ask the city’s legal department to study the matter.

Their Republican opponent, City Councilman Tom Waniewski, said legal fees for such a case would be better spent directly on the fight - paying for education and resources for law enforcement.

Mr. Waniewski pointed to other lawsuits, saying that Toledo would do better to spend its money on other opioid-fighting initiatives and let the state fund the legal fight against pharmaceutical companies.

In May, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed a lawsuit against five drug manufacturers. Other state attorneys general - in West Virginia and Mississippi - have filed similar lawsuits. The Mississippi case is still working its way through the courts, but in West Virginia’s case, the state has been able to get a settlement of $20 million from Ohio’s Cardinal Health.

That kind of settlement money will help West Virginia fund its fight against the epidemic, paying for treatment and enlightened enforcement.

Ohio - and Toledo - could benefit from a similar settlement.

There were 288 confirmed opioid overdose deaths across a 21-county region of northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan last year. That tops the 215 fatal opioid overdoses in the region recorded in 2015 and 145 in 2014.

Taking drug companies to court should not be taken lightly. These lawsuits will be expensive and time-consuming, and there is no guarantee of victory for the cities and states that file them.

But Toledo has a big stake in this fight and leaving it to other cities or state attorneys general is not necessarily the safe choice in this case. Having the winning court strategy or forcing a settlement from the drug makers may be a matter of getting enough plaintiffs and enough legal minds from enough cities and states to join the fight.

Moreover, a victory could mean substantial funds for Drug Abuse Response Teams, expanded drug courts, more overdose-reversing naloxone for first responders, and more treatment facilities.

Joining the list of communities taking drug companies to court is a risk and an investment, but this is a battle Toledo should seriously consider.

Online: https://bit.ly/2wRJlqN

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