By Brian J. Skinner, Esq.
Although more than 20 bills would have affected seniors in one way or another, only Senate Bill 570 (establishing training for law enforcement in handling individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementias) reached the Governor’s desk.
The bill authorizes that an Alzheimer’s and dementia law-enforcement training course and guidelines be developed in cooperation with the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services and the West Virginia Alzheimer’s Association. The course must include instruction on the identification of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, risks such as wandering, elder abuse, and the best practices when interacting with them. The Governor signed SB570 on March 12, 2022, and it becomes effective on June 9, 2022.
An attempt to require the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) plan administrator to reimburse hospitals providing inpatient care to nonmandatory permissive participant beneficiaries at rates negotiated between the hospital and the plan failed on the final night of the session.
Senate Bill 574 was subject to a great deal of controversy in the Senate. After the Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources favorably reported a committee substitute bill to the floor, it was laid over on six separate occasions and amended by Senator Tom Takubo to require PEIA to reimburse hospitals providing inpatient and emergency care to a beneficiary covered by the plan at a rate of 110% of the Medicare rate. The bill finally passed the Senate by a vote of 33-0-1. Despite all of that effort, the bill died in the House on the final night of the session.
Several bills sought to either eliminate or significantly alter the current certificate of need (CON) requirements, including Senate Bill 297, Senate Bill 702, House Bill 4013, and House Bill 4549. The only CON-related legislation to get any traction during the session was House Bill 4643. The bill would have removed birthing centers from facilities requiring a certificate of need. However, several attempts were made to amend the bill to remove more facilities and services from the CON process. The bill passed the House 86-11-3 only to die in the Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources.
Several bills were introduced that would have decreased income taxes paid by seniors, including Senate Bill 46 and House Bill 4076, which would have exempted Social Security benefits from personal income tax; House Bill 2065, allowing low-income senior citizens to receive certain tax credits without filing a state income tax return; House Bill 3067, raising the homestead exemption to $30,000; and House Bill 3270, exempting the first $35,000 of retirement income for senior citizens in West Virginia who are 60 years and older from state income taxation. However, none of these bills was taken up during the session.
Other bills that would have impacted the state’s seniors but did not receive significant attention during the 2022 regular session included: House Bill 2188, which would have established reimbursement rates for congregate and in-home meals; House Bill 2753, implementing community education programs throughout the state to facilitate providing educational, recreational, cultural, social, health and other community services to all of the people of the community; House Bill 4791, providing affordable broadband access for seniors, low-income, and disabled persons; and House Bill 4799, which would have applied a percentage of available coal-severance collections to offset future household coal-fired electric power rate increases for senior citizens.
Brian J. Skinner is the former counsel to the West Virginia House of Delegates Judiciary Committee and counsel to the West Virginia Senate Minority Caucus. He was also general counsel to the West Virginia State Health Officer and Commissioner for the Bureau for Public Health. He has almost two-decades of experience as a strategic advisor and chief legal counsel to both executive and legislative branch public officials.