WV Medicaid Patients Closely Watching U.S. Senate

Despite Senator Shelley Moore Capito’s promises to defend their health care, some folks covered under the Medicaid expansion in West Virginia are frightened by the health care bill in the Senate - and they haven’t even seen it yet.

Capito initially said she would defend the expansion. But more recently, she’s said she would vote for the expansion to be phased out under the Senate legislation now being drafted behind closed doors.

That’s disturbing to Allison McComas from Charleston. She gets emotional remembering what it was like before the Medicaid expansion, when she ran up thousands of dollars in unpaid medical bills while working low-paid restaurant jobs.

“People get sick from not having health insurance, and they let it go too long, and they can’t work,” McComas said. “All in all, it makes sense for everybody to have coverage, not just rich people.“

Capito did not respond to requests for comment.

The Free Press WV
Folks like Allison McComas say Medicaid expansion has made a huge difference for them.

She has said she thinks people who enrolled when Medicaid was expanded, such as McComas, should go through a transition period as Medicaid funding is cut. Supporters of the reduced funding call it necessary for the program’s stability.

Edwin Park, vice president for health policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said the little information that has been leaked about the Senate bill indicates it generally resembles the one that passed the House. He said both would cut a quarter of Medicaid funding to make room for tax cuts benefiting the wealthy and the health care industry.

He said he predicts the Senate bill’s timeline will be slower, but would have the same impact.

“The progress that’s been made with the Medicaid expansion would be lost over time, and then the coverage levels that were even in place pre-Affordable Care Act would be rolled back as well,” Park said.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated the Medicaid cuts in the House bill would cost 14 million people their health coverage. Park said the Senate bill would eventually arrive at the same result.

“With the same outcome as the House bill: that is, very large Medicaid cuts and millions of low-income individuals, who would otherwise be on Medicaid, losing their coverage,” he said.

About 170,000 West Virginians signed up when Medicaid was expanded, one of the highest rates in the country.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

Senior Group Promises Strong Opposition to GOP Healthcare Bill

Groups representing doctors, hospitals and people over 50 all are voicing strong opposition to the latest version of the American Health Care Act.
The Free Press WV

The healthcare bill just passed by Republicans in the U.S. House is facing opposition from groups representing doctors, hospitals and seniors.

The American Medical Association, American Hospital Association and AARP all are sharply criticizing the revised American Health Care Act.

The AARP’s David Certner is the legislative counsel and policy director for government affairs.

“We believed we had a bad healthcare bill,“ he says. “Changes this week have only made that bill worse, putting at risk the insurance, and coverage and access to affordable care, for tens of millions of seniors.“

This version of the bill has yet to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office, although it estimated the previous bill would have cut 24 million people off of the insurance rolls.

Supporters of the bill as amended say it can now do more to lower the cost of premiums, and it would create and fund high-risk insurance pools for people with preexisting conditions.

Since the bill ends the requirement to cover people with preexisting health conditions, the AMA argues it would make it impossible for most of them to get coverage.

Lina Walker, vice president for public policy at AARP, says her group estimates premiums in the high-risk pools could be nearly $26,000 a year per person. The White House has disputed that figure given the complexity of the insurance market.

But, Walker says other groups’ calculations are similar.

“We didn’t pull a number out of a hat,“ she says. “This is based on real-world data, and it shows that premiums will be exceedingly high, unaffordable to the very people who need the coverage.“

A separate estimate says funding in the legislation would cover just five percent of the 2.2 million people with preexisting conditions now in the individual marketplace.

The bill also repeals some of the Affordable Care Act’s most popular protections against annual and lifetime caps on coverage.

Certner says AARP will continue to express its opposition.

“Town-hall meetings, visits back home, visits here in D.C., Grassroots mailings; we’ve been doing a great deal on social media,“ he adds. “Targeted ads in, I think, roughly 25 to 30 cities around the country.“

Our Fight for Health Care During Recess and Beyond

The Free Press WV

It’s time to ramp up our resistance to the Trump-Ryan agenda on health care. We scored our biggest legislative victory so far on March 24, when Speaker Paul Ryan called off his bid to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), because he didn’t have the votes. This was an inspiring, hard-fought win for everyone who believes health care is for all.

But Republican leaders in Congress are still gunning for our health care; their radical plans for our economy leave them no choice. Without gutting healthcare and other essential economic benefits, how else will they pay for the massive tax giveaway for corporations and billionaires that they’ve set their sights on?

During Resistance Recess, now until April 23, as lawmakers visit their home districts, we will let them know we’re still fighting to make sure everyone in the country gets the care they need.

Twenty thousand members of People’s Action,, the Center for Popular Democracy, the Working Families Party and others gathered on a conference call April 9 to strategize with Reps. Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee and other progressive leaders. Is there strength in numbers? You bet.

Why is this urgent? Last week, the Trump administration and House GOP leaders were scrambling to revive the health care repeal legislation by trading away protections for people with preexisting conditions to appease the far right. They didn’t get a vote on the bill before heading home for congressional recess, but we can be sure that gutting health care is still on their minds, and still a top priority.

Proposals like block-granting Medicaid or privatizing Medicare aren’t just about pushing people off good, government-guaranteed health care into an uncertain market – though that’s certainly bad enough. These proposals are also designed to take resources from working and poor families in order to hand ever more wealth to corporations and the rich.

The stalled Trump-Ryan health care repeal would have forced 24 million people off health care to make way for $600 billion in tax giveaways largely for corporations and the rich. If that tax break is huge, the tax reform giveaways that Donald Trump has proposed come in at a jaw-dropping $6 trillion – ten times the amount of the health repeal tax giveaway.

So they’ll be looking for more places to cut, which is why health care will loom large in the upcoming showdowns over the federal budget and taxes, where food, housing, and the other essentials for survival will also be at stake.

This will all play out in the upcoming tax and budget battles that will extend through the summer and beyond. The first round will come on April 28, when the continuing resolution that’s keeping the government funded in 2017 expires. Then Congress will turn to the fiscal year 2018 budget and hammering out the tax plan.

And, to complicate matters, while the tax and budget fight is underway we need to stay alert for any attempts to pump life back into health repeal. There’s also the possibility that Congress and the administration will try to make their misinformation about ACA implosion come true by sabotaging the underpinnings of the system. One avenue would involve stopping payments to insurers that lower deductibles and other cost-sharing for 58 percent of those enrolled in ACA coverage. Refusing these payments would be a big blow to the 7.1 million people who receive the support, and it also could prompt insurers to withdraw from ACA markets.

These details aside, the fight is clear. We can start guaranteeing an essential quality of life for all, or we can drive further inequality and corporate power. While your members of Congress are home for recess, tell them to stand on the right side of this choice.

Here are some ways they can start doing just that:

Protect our public health insurance programs, including Medicaid, Medicare, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, from any cuts or changes that would mean less care or more expensive care. Instead of cutting these programs, we should expand them to begin to serve the real need.

Reject any legislation that would penalize people for having a preexisting condition, cut essential health benefits such as prescription drugs, or let insurance corporations put caps on our care.

Open public options for coverage in every state so insurance corporations like Anthem can’t hold us hostage, especially in rural and less-populated counties.

Make our health care stronger by making it more affordable and less profit-driven. We can start by negotiating lower prices with drug corporations.

Oppose any tax plan that would result in corporations, hedge funds, and the rich contributing less in taxes than they do now. Our economy is already too unequal.

Support a budget that protects and expands the basic rights of people, families, and communities to thrive. This means ensuring that all people get the health care, food, housing, and other essentials that form the basis of just and democratic society.

What can you do? Join our fight. Visit the Resistance Recess website to find an event in your area, or organize one of your own. We can win!

~~  Sarah Warner ~~

Health Study Shows WV Ranks 50th For Eighth Year In A Row

The Free Press WV

For eight years in a row, West Virginia has ranked 50th in a national health study from Gallup and Healthways.

That study reviews well-being in a holistic manner. Holistic healing and care has been the base of Dr. Clay Marsh’s message from West Virginia University where he is the vice president and academic dean of health sciences.

“If you want to keep people younger older so we have a healthier population, it turns out in every longevity study, it’s about connection. It’s about purpose and it’s about seeing your life with gratitude and with abundance and feeling that you can do what you want,” Marsh said in Charleston Tuesday for WVU Day at the Capitol.

The 2016 health study observed the feeling of purpose, social relationships, economic stress and security, community pride and actual physical health among residents.

“We gotta love the people in our state. We gotta help them. We can’t just go away when it gets a little tough because there are tough things that people are dealing with,” Marsh told Metronews “Talkline” host Hoppy Kercheval. “But, hope, I think is part of our nature. And love and safety I think are the two keys for us. It’s going to happen a family, a community at a time.”

A 2015 Gallup and Healthways report listed West Virginia as one of two states with the highest prevalence of diabetes.

The same group determined West Virginia was among states with the highest obesity rate every year from 2008 to 2014.

Last month, the Center for Disease Control reported the highest prevalence of heart disease across the nation is in West Virginia.

Marsh explained how WVU can have a role in improvement in those areas.

“We believe our role here is to bring any resource that is needed by a community to help them on their quest toward hope, connections and purpose and a better life. But, we can’t create that for them.”

For example, former WVU student body president and primary care physician Dr. Dino Beckett returned to his home community of Williamson where he has help further success of a diabetes clinic, started a community garden and initiated walking clubs.

Those are the healthy movements Marsh said WVU can support.

“When people want help, when they’re ready to flip, when they’re ready to change their mindset, there are so many things we can do. We love our state. We love the people in our state. We want better for them. But, we need to have them want better for themselves. I think that’s key.”

Addressing Public Health Crises: Suicide and Opioid Addiction are Preventable

Both opioid addiction and suicide are serious preventable and treatable public health problems, and everyone has a role to play.

The Free Press WV

During National Public Health Week , April 03-09, we celebrate the progress we’ve made helping people live healthier lives and those public health professionals who have helped us make that progress. But one hallmark of public health is life expectancy, and the United States just experienced a drop in overall life expectancy for the first time since 1993. This was due in part to increases in two of the nation’s most heart-breaking and yet preventable public health issues facing us: the increasing rate of suicide and the increasing misuse of opioid drugs.

In 2015, nearly 44,200 deaths were due to suicide in the United States, or about one suicide every 12 minutes. According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 600,000 U.S. residents died by suicide from 1999 to 2015. The suicide rate has steadily climbed, resulting in a 2015 rate that is 28 percent higher than in 2000.

Suicide rates in less urban areas have been higher than those in more urban areas. During this time period, the gap in suicide rates increased between less urban and more urban areas. This gap began to widen more quickly in 2007-2008, possibly reflecting the impact and financial hardship of the recession, which hit rural areas harder.

Geographic disparities may also be associated with limited access to mental health care and greater social isolation, as well as the “opioid overdose epidemic,” according to the CDC report.

According to the CDC report: “Communities can benefit from implementing policies, programs and practices based on the best available evidence regarding suicide prevention and key risk factors.” And the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline , 1.800.273.TALK (8255), supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is always available for anyone in need of help or information about suicide prevention.

Opioids include both prescription medications, such as hydrocodone, oxydone, morphine and methadone, which are approved to manage pain, as well as illicit drugs, such as heroin.

Suicide and opioid misuse and abuse risk factors can overlap, including pain, other addictions, mental disorders and disruptions in social support. Whether opioid overdose is unintentional or intentional, more than 300,000 Americans have died since 2000, including more than 33,000 deaths involving prescription and illicit opioids in 2015 alone. 

To address this crisis, President Trump recently established a Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which has been tasked to make recommendations to the President for improving the federal response to the opioid crisis. The commission includes heads of key Cabinet departments, including HHS Secretary Tom Price.

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and the Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health provide roadmaps for comprehensive public health approaches to suicide and substance abuse prevention. The emotional and economic impact on individuals as well as on families and communities demand a continued proactive and coordinated response.

Both opioid addiction and suicide are serious preventable and treatable public health problems, and everyone has a role to play. Learn about some of the available resources for treatment options, mental health and behavioral health issues and related concerns:

“Medicare for All” Backed as Next Healthcare Reform

Now that the Obamacare replacement backed by
Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price has failed,
some physicians are backing “Medicare For All.“

The Free Press WV

As the GOP tries to resuscitate its plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, the debate over how to fix health care in the U.S. is heating up again.

Partisan divides remain deep, but according to Glenn Pearson, former president of Physicians for a National Health Program, the failure of the American Health Care Act could present a unique opportunity for President Donald Trump to make good on campaign promises for more coverage and better benefits by moving beyond for-profit models.

“America is the only wealthy country in the world that has a free market, for-profit system,” Pearson said. “It treats health care as a commodity, like buying a TV. In every other country, health care is a human right.“

Pearson said the Medicare for All Act - introduced by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. - would provide immediate and comprehensive coverage to all Americans by expanding Medicare, the popular single-payer program already in place for people 65 and older.

Critics have said it would be too costly. But independent analysis of similar legislation found 95 percent of U.S. households would pay less than the current system of insurance premiums, deductibles and co-pays.

Pearson, while not a fan of the ill-fated Republican proposal, noted that the Affordable Care Act still leaves many without coverage and channels billions of taxpayer dollars to private insurance companies. He said a majority of Americans, including Republicans, support a system where money currently going to administrative overhead and private profits is spent on patient care instead.

“There would be no deductibles, no co-insurance, there would be very small co-pays,” he said. “And so, nobody would ever go bankrupt because they became ill.“

Even though more people have health insurance since the ACA rollout, Pearson said, nearly 2 million Americans go bankrupt each year because of health care expenses.

A National Day of Action calling for universal health care is set for Saturday, April 8 - the first day of the congressional recess.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

Obamacare Repeal Plan Looks Negative for Rural States Such as WV

The Free Press WV

Congressional Budget Office figures show the main GOP replacement for Obamacare would have a negative impact on rural areas, and especially on older residents.

The House’s American Health Care Act would let insurance companies charge up to 40 percent more for folks in their 50s and 60s.

And Edwin Park, vice president for health policy with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, says at the same time cuts to Medicaid, and especially the bill’s reduced subsidies, would land hard on rural states such as West Virginia.

“Let’s say a 60-year-old making $30,000 a year, they would see the value of that help fall by as much as three quarters in West Virginia,“ he points out.

Republicans point to other CBO projections that the replacement plan would reduce the budget deficit.

Park says most of the savings comes from shifting Medicaid costs onto the states. He says the very wealthy and some big health care corporations would see huge tax cuts.

Before the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, many rural hospitals in states such as West Virginia were just barely hanging on. Park says they often were surviving on very thin margins, or actually losing money.

“But in contrast in those states that took up the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, rural hospitals saw big improvements in their operating margins, some are actually expanding” he points out. “But that would all be at risk and more.“

Park says rural residents were more likely to have voted for Donald Trump, but they also would be more likely to be hurt by the repeal proposal.

“Rural Americans are more likely to be uninsured, they have less access to job-based coverage, they’re more likely to be low income, so they’re disproportionately reliant on Medicaid for their health coverage,“ he points out.

Republicans note that under the ACA, insurers have pulled out of some less profitable, rural markets. They argue this is one reason they want to replace Obamacare.

Despite opposition from hospitals, nurses, the American Medical Association and AARP, Republican leaders in Congress hope to pass their ACA replacement quickly.

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Why Western Medicine is Failing to Fix Our Addiction Crisis

According to board-certified medical doctor Mylaine Riobe, MD, addiction is a physiological metabolism disorder and requires specialized treatment.

The Free Press WV

Dr. Riobe studied pre-med at Columbia, went to NY Medical College for her MD, and completed an OB-GYN residency. She then “went out into the real world,” only to find that what she’d learned wasn’t enough for many problems patients came to her for.

“Most of my patients were tired all the time, couldn’t sleep, were gaining weight, and experiencing anxiety and depression. While I could prescribe sleeping pills, anxiety meds, and antidepressants, [my patients] seemed to return with other problems or even the same problems again later.”

Thus began her quest for answers. She credited her grandmother for introducing her to natural medicines. That, plus Dr. Riobe’s interest in Buddhist principles, led her to study Chinese medicine for five years. “I also studied with mentors for two years by seeing patients with them in their offices.”

In the United States, she explained, medical doctors don’t need to formally study Chinese medicine. “They can get away with a six-month course and begin practicing. This leads to a misunderstanding of Chinese medicine because it’s simply not enough time to learn it.”

The doctor then implemented Chinese medicine into her practice “with great results” and was able to help her patients in new ways. Still not completely satisfied, she continued to seek solutions by then studying functional medicine. “That introduced me to a sophisticated method of testing called cellular-based testing.”

After her extensive education, Dr. Riobe founded the Riobe Institute of Integrative Medicine in Stuart, Florida where she treats patients with her own medical recipe: a fusion of Western, Chinese and Functional medicines. Riobe is also the author of The Tao of Integrative Medicine: The Path to Prevention and The Answer to Cancer: The Ending of An Epidemic. She is also certified in office-based opioid addiction management.

“In conventional medicine,” said Riobe, “the term prevention isn’t used accurately. An annual checkup is looking for an early diagnosis of any existing diseases. If something is wrong, both the doctor and patient hope to catch it early. The goal is to prevent death, not prevent disease.”

She said, “Similarly, when an addict goes to detox, the focus is on removing the substance from the body. A ‘good’ doctor will try to make the addict more comfortable by prescribing a drug to ease withdrawal, anxiety, and depression.”

After days or weeks in rehab, the addict’s body has rid itself of the drug, and after-care programs may offer meditation, exercise, and psychiatric help. That all sounds good, right? Yes, said Riobe, but with that approach, we are failing to look at the bigger picture.

“We’re leaving the patient with the same underlying physiological causes of addiction, which is why our current methods have up to a 95% failure rate.”

She referred to a 2016 study released by the University of Beijing that focused on addiction as a physiological metabolism disorder. She is certain it all comes down to a problem with metabolism.

“Metabolism is the reactions the body uses to make its energy so it can perform its functions,” said Riobe. “As we take in foods containing proteins and fats, and breathe oxygen, they are broken down and converted into energy. If this process doesn’t take properly, we get lactic acid instead. These metabolic problems stem from nutrient deficits, hormone imbalances, and an accumulation of toxins,” she said. “Without proper evaluation and testing, it’s extremely difficult to determine the causes.”

After looking at the study, I still needed to understand what the authors—and Riobe—were getting at. In layman’s terms, lactic acid is a chemical compound that comes from blood cells and muscle. It can become problematic when a buildup occurs, which can happen as a side effect of toxin buildup from drug use or poor nutrition. Riobe explained, “The Beijing study showed that the release of lactic acid by glia cells in the brain triggers cocaine-addiction memories and fuels addiction in rodents.”

Okay, so then I had to understand what glia cells are: they are nervous system cells in your brain and spinal cord. Your brain’s neurons do the thinking while glia cells make sure the brain is working properly so the neurons can do their thing. The study found that if production of lactic acid is blocked, cravings for cocaine diminish. I’d say that’s an important discovery toward treating coke addicts, eh?

Riobe then talked about the glaring problem with our current treatment for opioid addicts. Based solely on western medicine, the patient is medicated with a “safer” version of the addictive drug, such as Suboxone.

“This satisfies the craving and drastically reduces the risk of death from drug overdose,” said Riobe. “But it leaves the underlying cause of addiction untreated, which explains why weaning addicts off of [Suboxone] is so difficult. The disease is still present, as are its underlying causes.”

The fatal flaw in this system, according to Riobe, is this focus on preventing death. “We look at the craving as the disease and mask it with prescription drugs,” she said. “We need to look for the cause of the craving.”

That’s where Riobe’s intensive studies and integration of Chinese medicine and functional medicine comes in. Her three-fold approach is to focus on preventing disease. She explained that western medicine is not equipped to look at disease from the perspective of metabolism, but traditional Chinese medicine and functional medicine are. “Their very premise is to correct ‘metabolic dysfunction,‘“ said Riobe.

Once again, I had to slow things down to understand all of this. I felt like it was going over my head. Let’s break it down in terms of treating addiction:

  • Western medicine is focused on diagnosing the disease and preventing death. A doctor looks at symptoms, makes a determination, and prescribes a solution. He/She might treat all patients with similar symptoms in the same way. Often, treatment includes pharmaceuticals. This can work in the short-term but it is only masking symptoms. The problem is that addiction is a chronic illness with underlying causes that are not just mental.
  • Chinese medicine looks at the whole person. Each patient is considered unique and the examination is based on “life force energy” or qi (pronounced chee). The doctor will look for why the balance in the body’s metabolism has been thrown off and what is causing the cravings. Treatment will be based on restoring the body’s natural balance. This focuses on long-term wellness. Riobe explained: “Chinese medicine is scientific. It is related to quantum physics as opposed to Newtonian physics like our conventional [western] and functional medicine models.”
  • Functional medicine, like Chinese medicine, does not merely mask symptoms, doesn’t rely on “one size fits all” answers, and looks to bring the body back to a healthy state. However, functional medicine shares western medicine’s problem-solving through advanced laboratory testing in order to determine why the body is malfunctioning.

Riobe’s practice combines these three strategies to wean patients off of addictive substances for a much better chance at long-lasting sobriety. She is in the process of opening an inpatient drug rehabilitation facility to implement her specialized three-fold medical model. In addition, Riobe is currently seeking grants for a study that will enroll addicted patients to prove the value in her integrative model to treat drug cravings.

“If drug dependence is treated naturally from a root cause perspective,” Riobe said, “we can see a momentum shift in the U.S. and bring this epidemic under control.”

~~  Dr. Riobe studied Chinese medicine for five years.  ~~

Report: “Pervasive” Threats of Lead in School Drinking Water

The Free Press WV
The Free Press WV

In the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, a new report says lead in schools’ drinking water is a pervasive problem. The District of Columbia received the best grade in the report - a “B” - for facing the issue, in part because of a proposal likely to pass the city council.

But the bill’s sponsor, D.C. councilwoman Mary Chen, said the problem is far from solved.

“Even just last week, the parents of one school here, J.O. Wilson Elementary, got a letter from the school system reporting that there were elevated lead levels found one month ago,” Chen said.

Even before the problems in Flint, D.C. had been battling lead in its own water supply. The new report, “Get the Lead Out,“ said the problem is widespread in schools. Although the study did not include West Virginia, incidents such as the 2014 Elk River chemical spill have affected many facilities that serve children.

Environment America and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group are launching a campaign to prompt state and local officials to eliminate lead in drinking water at schools, focusing on 16 states. Yanna Lambrinidou, a researcher at Virginia Tech and a national expert on lead and drinking water, said older school buildings are especially vulnerable to corrosion in pipes.

“When water sits in plumbing for a prolonged period of time, it has the opportunity to absorb more lead from the lead-bearing plumbing than if it just kept moving through the pipes,” Lambinidou said.

The report called for schools to remove lead service lines, including lead-bearing parts, and install and maintain water filters. It also urged school districts to be proactive in taking these steps before testing shows elevated lead levels.

Report co-author John Rumpler, Clean Water Program director with the group Environment America, said kids’ health is at stake.

“It is estimated that 24 million children across the country will lose IQ points due to low levels of lead exposure,” Rumpler said. “That is a really serious, widespread problem - not just a few cities, all across the country.“

D.C. scored the highest in the study for its steps so far to remove lead from school drinking water. Out of 16 states in the report, 12 got failing grades.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

Heart Association Predicts Big Increase in Cardiovascular Disease

The Free Press WV

Nearly half of all Americans will have cardiovascular disease by 2035, according to the American Heart Association. In a new projection released the week of Valentine’s Day, the group said it expects broken hearts to cost the nation and its medical system $1 trillion a year at that point.

Shane Mandel said too many folks are likely to go through something he knows firsthand. A year and a half ago, he went to the emergency room with chest pain and heartburn. The doctor there asked him a question.

“ ‘So, when did you have your heart attack?‘ And I looked up at him and I said, ‘What are you talking about? I’ve never had a heart attack.‘ But he said, ‘No, you’ve had a heart attack in the last 10 days.‘ “ Mandel said. “And at that point, the world just totally changed.“

According to Mandel and the Heart Association, the United States needs to ramp up research and encourage a culture of healthy living, both of which will help the nation prepare. West Virginia has some of the nation’s highest rates of chronic health issues.

American Heart Association president Steven Houser said Congress also can play a role, keeping the current protections in the Affordable Care Act in place so people with pre-existing conditions don’t lose their health insurance.

“In my view, we cannot afford to be complacent about these projections,“ he said. “If they become a reality, a serious health and economic crisis is on our horizon.“

Mandel said the Heart Association wants to see increased funding for heart-related research through the National Institutes of Health.

“I’m alive today because of research,“ he said. “Continuing to fund research is a crucial step in getting people like me back to their lives, and preventing the disease from ever becoming part of another person’s life.“

According to the American Heart Association, the death rate from cardiovascular disease rose in 2015 and 2016, reversing steady declines dating back to 1969.

The full report is online at

Dan Heyman

PEIA partners with iSelectMD

The Free Press WV

Telehealth allows you to connect with a physician via phone or video chat when you have a non-emergent medical condition that needs treatment.

With just one simple phone call, members are connected to state-licensed, board-certified physicians who are ready to resolve non-emergency health issues 24 hours a day for a $40 copay.  iSelectMD physicians will take the time to listen and consult with you to recommend a treatment plan and, when appropriate, prescribe medication.

iSelectMD physicians treat many non-emergent illnesses, for example:

  • Sinus Infections
  • Bronchitis
  • Cold & Flu
  • Ear Infections
  • Urinary Tract Infections
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Sore Throat
  • Pink Eye


  • For consultation with a Board-Certified Physician call 1.877.775.3006 x1 24/7.
    The access code is : WV1144
  • iSelectMD is available anytime and anywhere you travel.
  • iSelectMD encourages everyone to have a primary care physician and does not replace your existing primary care physician.
  • iSelectMD requires a Medical History Disclosure to be completed prior to your first consultation. This may be completed online at  or by calling customer care at 1.877.775.3006 x3.
  • Depending on time of day or call volume, iSelectMD physicians dedicate themselves to return calls within 30 minutes from the time they receive the request.


  • iSelectMD physicians reserve the right to write prescriptions when deemed appropriate and do not prescribe DEA controlled substances or certain other drugs that may be harmful due to potential abuse.

Contact Information

To learn more, visit or call 1.877.775.3006.

DHHR Launches Statewide Naloxone Distribution Project to Fight Opioid Overdose Deaths in WV

The Free Press WV

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) today announced the first statewide naloxone distribution project aimed at preventing opioid overdose deaths and increasing access to the medication.

“Naloxone is a lifesaving antidote that, if administered in a timely manner, can effectively reverse respiratory depression caused by opioid and opiate overdose and revive victims,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, State Health Officer and Commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health.  “This collaboration represents an essential step toward turning around West Virginia’s staggering overdose statistics.”

The state-level naloxone distribution project is a partnership of DHHR’s Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities (BBHHF) and Bureau for Public Health (BPH).  It is predominantly funded through the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment $1.07 million block grant managed by the BBHHF, and is being administered by the BPH as part of its statewide harm reduction efforts.  The project will be jointly overseen by the BPH and the BBHHF to focus on reduction in the number of overdose deaths.

“The partnership forged between the bureaus to move this project forward marks the first concerted, statewide effort to make this medication more widely available to all who can potentially save a life,” said Kimberly Walsh, BBHHF Deputy Commissioner.  “This initiative will significantly enhance the state’s ability to ensure that non-EMS first responders, as well as others with existing programs or those who have interest in establishing programs, have access to naloxone.”

DHHR has contracted with the West Virginia University Injury Control Research Center (WVU ICRC) to implement and evaluate the program through a census of existing naloxone programs.

The WVU ICRC will use the data collected from its recent survey to compile a priority list of programs for the naloxone distribution.  Priority is based on the organization’s risk level (calculated from number and rate of overdose deaths in the county where the program is located) and estimated number of naloxone doses needed (based on survey responses).

The WVU ICRC has acquired more than 16,000 doses of medication, which will enable the distribution of more than 8,000, two-dose naloxone rescue kits to new and existing programs across the state.

Levels of Radioactive Isotopes in Marcellus Well “Unpredictable”

The Free Press WV

New testing is finding unpredictable levels of naturally occurring radioactive materials in the waste from a Marcellus well.

Gas wells in the region produce millions of tons of drill cuttings a year. These normally contain small amounts of uranium and other mildly radioactive isotopes, which can be a problem if the radioactivity becomes concentrated during waste disposal.

But Andrew Nelson, a researcher at the University of Iowa Chemistry Department, says the industry and regulators assume they know how much of each isotope is in the cuttings.

Nelson led what he says is the first attempt at the complex chemical analysis, to tell what and how much is really there.

“No one had actually ever measured uranium 234, polonium 210, lead 210, a lot of these other isotopes,” he states. “Before we can even begin to start asking whether it’s safe or an acceptable risk, we need to first determine what’s in there.“

Nelson says researchers are finding that the isotope levels vary widely depending on the rock formation, and he adds what they found in one well is no reason to panic.

The industry argues the materials’ radiation levels are not that different from typical background radioactivity.

Nelson says the isotopes are tough to accurately test for, and testing requires fairly elaborate and sophisticated chemistry.

If the landfills that dispose of the drill cuttings test for naturally occurring radioactive materials at all, the landfill operators just run it past a gamma meter.

Nelson says that doesn’t produce an accurate picture.

“If you find a dose rate of 10, it doesn’t tell you how much uranium is in there, and it certainly doesn’t tell you whether there is uranium 234 and 238 in the same concentration,“ he points out.

Nelson says the levels of the different isotopes are important because they behave differently in a landfill. For example, he says, one isotope of uranium is much more likely to leach than another.

“Although they are the same in their original solid material that comes up, when you start leaching them you start getting significantly more uranium 234 coming off the materials than uranium 238,“ he explains.

Nelson maintains there is a pressing need for more research and testing.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

Stay Healthy During Holidays

The Free Press WV

No matter your age, the holidays can be a particularly difficult time for those watching their weight and trying to control their sugar intake.

With an abundance of parties and get-togethers during the season, there is, in turn, also an abundance of decadent food, drinks and sweets.

Here are a few tips that can help you to stay on track with your personal nutrition goals between now and New Year’s Day:

  • Instead of focusing on weight loss during this time of year, focus on maintaining your current weight.

  • When getting ready to go to a holiday party, avoid skipping meals earlier in the day in order to “save your calories” for the party. Doing so may set you up for overeating.

  • Choose one out of these three common offerings at a party: Choose to have either an appetizer, an alcoholic beverage or a dessert in addition to your entrée item.

  • Always walk around and take a look at the food choices at a party before serving yourself. Choose the foods that you will enjoy most and which will give you the most satisfaction.

  • When making baked goods, try using some whole wheat flour in place of white flour, reducing the amount of sugar added to the recipe, and using applesauce or yogurt in place of oil.

  • Eat slowly. Put your fork down in between bites and take sips of water throughout your meal.

  • Stay active. Create an exercise routine that you can follow without having to rely on having good weather. Download some online workout videos or download an app on your smartphone or tablet so that you can do a workout anywhere without any equipment. Try the free SWorkit app, for example.

  • In addition, the holidays can be especially tough for those who may have diabetes or prediabetes and who will be watching their carbohydrate intake. If this applies to you, my recommendation would be to build yourself a balanced plate. Start with filling half of your plate with the non-starchy vegetable-based side dishes, such as green beans or Brussels sprouts. Then fill one-quarter of your plate with turkey. The remaining quarter of your plate will be for the carbohydrate-containing items. If stuffing is your favorite side dish, fill this section of your plate with it and forget about the rolls and mashed potatoes.

  • If you want to try a little bit of everything, put a small spoonful of each so you can have a taste of it all.

  • Choose only the items that are your favorites and will satisfy you the most.

  • If drinking alcohol, remember to always eat something beforehand to prevent a low blood sugar. Remember that these beverages can have a lot of added sugars and calories and they should be included if you are counting your carbohydrates.

  • If having a dessert, stick with a small portion and have it soon after having your meal.

Finally, one of the best things you can do after you have a larger meal than normal is be active. Get out and take a walk after your holiday dinner. For lower carbohydrate recipe ideas to try, visit the American Diabetes Association website:

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