By Steven Allen Adams, Parkersburg News and Sentinel
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Legislative leaders all agreed Friday that reform of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and how the state’s health insurance program for public employees reimburses health care providers are high priorities for the 2023 legislative session next week.
Reporters heard ideas on these and other issues Friday during the West Virginia Press Association’s annual Legislative Lookahead at the Culture Center in Charleston.
DHHR has been in the headlines over the last several years as the state’s substance abuse crisis rages on, the number of children in foster care remains high and West Virginia sits on multiple national lists for bad health care outcomes.
Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, said there will be a bill offered early in the 2023 legislative session beginning Wednesday to split DHHR into three separate departments. Blair said the bill will be one of many aimed at fixing DHHR’s systemic issues.
“That will be the beginning of the phased changes if we’re able to do that,” Blair said. “There’s a lot of good ideas that’s out there that can make this happen. They’re coming in on a daily basis.”
The Legislature passed a bill last year to split DHHR into a new Department of Health and Department of Human Resources. That bill was vetoed by Gov. Jim Justice. …
The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Government and Finance — led by Blair and House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay — hired former DHHR Deputy Secretary Jeremiah Samples in May to help lawmakers formulate a reform plan for DHHR. Samples, who began his career at DHHR in 2006, served as deputy secretary under Secretary Bill Crouch from 2017 to April, when Samples left citing differences of opinion with the direction the department was going. …