Charleston Gazette-Mail. October 10, 2023.
Editorial: Mr. Manahan goes to Washington
For a while, there was a bit of hope: Maybe Congress isn’t as crazy as everyone makes it out to be. Perhaps the theatrics on the floor, social media and cable news outlets are mostly for show but lawmakers actually do the work that benefits their constituents when the bright lights aren’t shining.
More on that in a bit.
This past weekend, hundreds of runners turned out for the annual Fox Trot 5k, established by Charleston business owner George Manahan a decade ago. The race raises money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation (founded by the actor of the same name), which, in turn, funds medical research to better treat and, hopefully one day, cure Parkinson’s Disease. Manahan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2010, as was local woman Connie Jones. Those two and countless volunteers have been working on building support groups and raising awareness about the disease and have raised more than $600,000 for the Foundation.
In April, the Michael J. Fox Foundation named Manahan the first recipient of its Hero of Advocacy Award.
And, in June, Manahan found himself sitting before a subcommittee of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, advocating for House Resolution 2365, the “National Plan to End Parkinson’s Act.”
Manahan spoke eloquently of just how many people across the country are affected by Parkinson’s, the varying symptoms and how the disease affects everyone differently. He briefly choked up while talking about trying to hide his tremors and other symptoms because he didn’t want others to know he had the disease. That seems a million miles distant from the advocate Manahan has become.
Of course, he wasn’t the only witness, nor was HR 2365 the only legislation on the docket that day. A representative from the March of Dimes was present to advocate for the “PREEMIE Reauthorization Act of 2023.” A representative from the International Association of Firefighters was on hand to speak in favor of a resolution supporting the reauthorization of the Firefighter Cancer Registry. These and other sensible and noble pieces of legislation were up for debate during the hearing.
Indeed, things began in a sensible, calm and bipartisan fashion. This is the stuff most people don’t see, but it could be argued that it’s some of the most important work Congress does. These are real issues that affect real Americans every day.
And so, there was hope, for anyone who happened to be in the committee room or watching CSPAN on June 14, that, behind all of the caustic rhetoric and headline-grabbing dysfunction, there still existed men and women in Congress who took the people’s business and the duties of their elected offices seriously.
Unfortunately, the meeting was hijacked by discussion, if it can be called that, of a Republican-led effort to strip transgender children of health care that has been standard for years. Things got truly bizarre in the last hour of the hearing, when Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, threw out a variety of nonsense as if trying to see what would stick.
Four months later, House Republicans have no speaker, and the National Plan to End Parkinson’s Act is in legislative limbo. It’s a shame that the Manahans of the world who can do so much good in and beyond their communities get lost in the shuffle when they go to Washington.
Herald-Dispatch. October 7, 2023.
Editorial: As heath care industry consolidates, consumers will have questions
Perhaps it was inevitable that Mountain Health Network — the parent organization of St. Mary’s Medical Center and Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington and Rivers Health, formerly Pleasant Valley Hospital, in Point Pleasant, West Virginia — would re-brand itself under the Marshall Health System name. In the past couple of years, Marshall University has been focused on its brand identity, and it has had longstanding ties with the regional hospitals.
Marshall Health System is a combination of Marshall University, Marshall Health and Mountain Health Network. Officials describe it as an integrated academic health system with Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.
The announcement wasn’t unexpected. Back in August at the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s annual summit at The Greenbrier, officials of Marshall and Mountain Health said they planned to create the new integrated academic health system. On Sept. 26, the boards of Marshall Health and Mountain Health Network voted to sign the master affiliation agreement creating Marshall Health Network Inc. The rebranding became official Thursday.
Beth Hammers, CEO of Marshall Health, said in August the integration is not a merger or an acquisition.
“It’s a partnership and collaboration (that) will unite us under the Marshall Health Network,” she said. “We understand that we will be better together. This integration is going to allow us to speak with one voice, how to unify a message that will be amplified throughout West Virginia and beyond. It will allow us to leverage our resources across the network so we can better optimize and bring about new services and programs for the communities we serve.”
As large as this integration may seem to people who rely on medical services in Huntington, it’s small compared to West Virginia University Health. That network has hospitals in 18 communities in West Virginia — Morgantown, Charleston, South Charleston, Ranson, Keyser, Bridgeport, Princeton, Parkersburg, Glen Dale, Martinsburg, Buckhannon, Gassaway, Summersville, Fairmont, Petersburg, New Martinsville, Wheeling and Ripley. Its reach covers West Virginia from north to south and east to west. WVU Health also has hospitals in Barnesville and Cadiz, Ohio, Oakland, Maryland, and Uniontown, Pennsylvania.
The major question for health consumers in the Huntington area and in southern West Virginia is where this leaves them — how do they benefit? It also affects how physicians and others provide health care. The days of a physician having a solo practice and taking cash from his patients — even making house calls when necessary — are almost over, if not already. Regulations, insurance considerations, paperwork and other matters that take doctors’ time from their patients and into otherwise unproductive needs of running a small business. The growth of bureaucracy can smother a small individual practice.
This isn’t unique to West Virginia, of course. In Kentucky, King’s Daughters Medical Center in Ashland had problems and is now part of the University of Kentucky Health System.
Large free-standing hospitals and small community hospitals must be weighing their options as their neighbors grow larger and accumulate power in marketing and in politics. Consumers will have fewer options as most physicians in an area are beholden to one large employer.
Consolidation is the name of the game in many industries. Health care is not immune to those forces. The question for consumers is simple: Where does it end, and how does it benefit them?
The Intelligencer. October 9, 2023.
Editorial: House Needs New Speaker Quickly
“Chaotic” is one way to describe the mess lawmakers have made of the U.S. House of Representatives in recent weeks. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., is right to be concerned about what this round of political theater will do to our government.
“Kevin McCarthy is a very good friend of mine and was, I think, dealt a difficult hand and really served well as Speaker. Only eight people was enough to combine with all the Democrats to throw him out,” Capito said last week. “And so, it is chaotic over there. And I don’t know how they have no plan B. It’s very disheartening to me because I think it’s difficult when you’re handed the gavel and you’re supposed to lead, and you can’t lead.”
Meanwhile, in the Senate, Capito and others are doing their best to keep working on behalf of all Americans.
“What we’re going to do over here … is what we can do, which is to put our heads down and pass these appropriations bills and consider them on the floor,” Capito said. “We can only influence what we can do. … I am concerned, very concerned, about the signals that are coming out of the entire Capitol.”
She is right to be concerned, as her hope that “saner heads will prevail” may not come to fruition.
This nonsense has gone on long enough. Responsible members of the U.S. House of Representatives — on both sides of the political aisle — are going to have to be the adults in the room and remind those who are behaving like children that their antics will not be tolerated. Surely enough will have the courage to stand against this insanity that a competent Speaker will be selected quickly and the work of the American people can progress.
The alternative is truly frightening.