As the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic continued to unfold, West Virginia lawmakers entertained a slew of potential laws that could have drastically changed the state’s health care market and policies. Some failed early, like the attempt to completely overturn the state’s certificate of need process.
Others gained traction late in the legislative process, like the House of Delegates’ proposed 15-week abortion ban that — until this week — was stalled in the Senate.
On the final day of the 2022 regular legislative session, several health-related bills were still moving and could become law before the chambers adjourn at midnight.
Here’s what happened to some of the bills the Gazette-Mail had been following:
Passed, signed by governor
HB 4276: Creation of a Parkinson’s disease registry at WVU
The bill would create an advisory panel composed of doctors and people diagnosed with Parkinson’s from West Virginia University, Charleston Area Medical Center and Marshall University.
Patients would opt in to participate and share data about the disease to help national researchers looking at potential cures.
The bill passed the House Jan. 26 on a 91-6 vote with three members not voting. The Senate passed the bill unanimously on Feb. 10. Gov. Jim Justice signed the bill on Feb. 23.
HB 4074: Requiring schools provide eating disorder and self-harm training for teachers and students
The legislation, known as Meghan’s Law, was crafted by Delegate Wayne Clark, R-Jefferson. It would require teachers to receive training and education on how to identify and prevent self-harm and eating disorders in their students.
Clark proposed the bill after his daughter, Meghan, was diagnosed and struggled with an eating disorder last year while playing high school sports.
Educators and some volunteers at schools would undergo the trainings every three years. Requirements for those trainings will be designed by the state school board by Sept. 1. Students in public middle and high schools would receive education on the issues annually through the bill.
The law passed the House unanimously on Jan. 25. Senators voted for the bill 33-1 on Feb. 10. The governor signed the bill into law on Feb. 22 and it will go into effect on May 12.
Passed, pending signature
HB 4373: To exclude fentanyl test strips from the definition of drug paraphernalia
The bill would ensure people who possess fentanyl testing strips, which are used to determine if there is fentanyl present in drugs, are not charged for possession of drug paraphernalia. The code section now does not explicitly prohibit the possession or the purchase of testing strips.
With 10 members absent, the bill passed the House 84-6 on March 2. The Senate passed the bill 33-1 on Friday, with Sen. Mike Azinger, R-Wood, the only no vote.
The House accepted small amendments to the bill from the Senate on Saturday, on a 94-5 vote. The bill now goes to the governor.
SB 419: Establishing pilot project to evaluate impact of certain post-substance use disorder residential treatments
The bill would create a pilot project to review the effect substance use disorder treatment programs have on patients up to three years after they are discharged. It would allow the Department of Health and Human Resources to contract with managed care organizations allowing payments based on performance-based metrics.
The pilot project will terminate in three years unless it is recommended for continued evaluation. At the end of each year, an analysis report will be presented to the Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources Accountability. The first is due Jan. 15, 2023.
It passed the Senate unanimously on Feb. 10, and it passed the House unanimously with seven members absent on March 3.
HB 4631: Establishing a bone marrow and peripheral blood stem donation awareness program
The bill would establish the Demetry Walker Bone Marrow and Peripheral Blood Stem Donation Awareness Program. The legislation is named after the son of Delegate Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, who sponsored the bill. Demetry died of leukemia last year at age 23.
The legislation would require the Bureau of Public Health to provide information on its website on bone marrow and peripheral blood stem donation.
It passed the House unanimously on Feb. 21. It passed the Senate unanimously on March 7.
HB 2817: Donated drug repository program
The bill would create the donated drug repository program to be overseen by the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy.
The legislation would allow eligible patients to donate drugs — both prescription and over-the-counter — to recipients authorized by the state Board of Pharmacy. Eligible recipients include pharmacies, wholesalers, hospitals, nonprofit clinics and federally qualified health care facilities, among others.
The bill passed both the House and the Senate unanimously.
SB 518: Allowing nurses licensed in another state to practice in WV
The bill reorganizes the state’s Board of Examiners for Registered Professional Nurses and updates requirements to practice nursing in West Virginia.
Through the new requirements, nurses who are licensed in other states would be eligible to receive a temporary permit to practice in West Virginia. They would still need to be a member of a professional nursing organization, and would have to pass a background check to receive the temporary permit.
The bill passed the Senate 31-0 on March 2, and passed the House 98-0 on March 10. The Senate voted 33-1 to concur on changes made to the bill on Saturday. It is effective from passage.
SB 468: Creating Unborn Child with Down Syndrome Protection and Education Act
The bill would ban any abortion that is “sought because of a disability.” This includes “the presence or presumed presence” of a disability or diagnosis in the fetus, including but not limited to chromosomal disorders.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, allows exceptions for “medical emergencies” and in cases of “nonmedically viable” fetuses.
Under the proposed law, physicians who perform or induce abortions will have 15 days to file a form with the state Department of Health and Human Resources outlining when the abortion was performed, the method used and whether any disabilities were detected through genetic testing on the fetus before the procedure. The physician must receive a statement from the patient confirming that the abortion was not performed “because of a disability.”
The state Department of Health and Human Resources, if the bill is signed into law, would be responsible for providing physicians and the public with “evidence-based” information regarding potential disabilities.
The bill passed the Senate 28-5 with one member not voting on March 2. On Saturday, the House passed the bill 81-17. Lawmakers there voted down several amendments to the bill, including one that would have made exceptions for rape and incest.
Democrats in the House accused Republican lawmakers of using the bill to virtue signal in an election year.
“I think that’s why I don’t hear from you all very often on these bills. I don’t think you genuinely care about them,” said Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio. “I think you think it just looks good in November.”
Delegate Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette, a vocal anti-abortion proponent and a sponsor of the bill, said it “has nothing to do with an election.”
HB 4012: Prohibiting the showing of proof of a COVID-19 vaccination
If passed into law, the bill would make it illegal for most colleges, hospitals and government entities from asking to see proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter the facilities or use their services.
It would not stop people at those facilities from asking questions about someone’s vaccination status or if they are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. The law would not apply if a federal policy does require proof of vaccination. It would not apply to any health facilities certified through the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid services. Those with “sincerely held religious beliefs” that prevent them from being vaccinated would not have to do so through an amendment adopted in the Senate on Saturday. The bill would also not apply to any students at colleges where their academic program requires of vaccination.
Through an amendment adopted by members of the House, the law would not be enforced for private entities that rent or lease property from government agencies.
The bill passed the House 80-16 on March 1. On Saturday, it passed the Senate 23-9 with two members absent. The House voted 84-12 to concur with the Senate changes.
HB 4111: Relating to the prescriptive authority of advanced practice registered nurses
The bill broadens prescriptive powers of advanced practice registered nurses and physicians assistants.
Through the proposed code, people with those titles can prescribe a three-day supply of Schedule II narcotics. They may not prescribe any Schedule I drugs. Those are the only prescriptive limitations for the professions if the bill becomes law.
With six members absent, the legislation passed the House unanimously on Feb. 7. On Saturday afternoon, it passed the Senate 34-0. With four members not voting, the House unanimously concurred with those changes, but further amended the bill. The Senate did not revisit the amended bill, rendering it dead.
HB 4252: To reduce copay cap on insulin and devices
If passed, the legislation would cap copayments for insulin to $35 for a 30-day supply, down from the current $100 cap, and codify insurance coverage for insulin devices for the first time.
Devices — which include test strips, glucometers and syringes, among other things — would be capped at $100 for a 30-day supply. Insulin pumps, which are small devices that automatically inject the medication and regulate blood sugar, would have a $250 cap and would be redeemable every two years.
The bill, sponsored by Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, passed the House 94-3 with three members not voting on Jan. 26. On Saturday, the Senate adopted an amendment to include PEIA coverage in the bill. It passed the Senate 31-3, but the House did not concur with the Senate’s changes, killing the bill.
HB 4607: To remove opioid treatment programs from requiring a certificate of need
The proposed legislation would end a 15-year moratorium on the creation of new opioid treatment programs using methadone. Methadone is an evidence-based treatment option for people with opioid use disorder.
Currently, there are only nine facilities offering methadone treatment in West Virginia.
Any entity looking to open an opioid treatment center would still need to apply for a certificate of need through the state’s Health Care Authority.
Through the Senate committee process, the bill was combined with House Bill 4660 as they dealt with the same section of code.
HB 4607 passed the House on a 61-38 vote, and HB 4660 passed the House unanimously. The new, combined bill was not taken up by the Senate on Saturday.
HB 4004: Relating to limiting an abortion to fifteen weeks’ gestation
The bill would ban most abortions performed at 15 weeks of gestation. The only exceptions made in the language are for “medical emergencies” and “severe fetal abnormalities.” Lawmakers in the House — both on the floor and in committees — voted down several amendments that would have made exceptions for rape and incest.
Existing state law prohibits abortions at 20 weeks of gestation. The only abortion care provider in the state, the West Virginia Women’s Health Center, offers abortions up to 17 weeks and six days. Fetal viability — which is when a fetus can survive outside the womb — is widely considered by the medical community to be around 24 weeks of gestation.
The bill previously passed the House 81-18 on Feb. 15. Until Friday, it was stalled in the Senate. In an impromptu meeting Friday, lawmakers in the Senate Health Committee advanced the bill with an amendment to make it effective in 2023. The Senate did not take up the bill on Saturday.
HB 4005: Relating to fetal body parts
The bill would make it illegal to transport or sell “fetal body parts,” which is already banned through provisions of federal code. The bill passed the House 82-15 with three members not voting. It stalled in the Senate, where it was double referenced to the Committee on Health and Human Resources and the Judiciary Committee. It was not brought up in either committee. It did not come up Saturday.
HB 4320: Relating to natural immunity or antibodies to any illness to be treated as equal or better to vaccine induced immunity
The bill would force employers that require vaccines as a condition of employment to recognize natural immunity as a substitute for vaccination.
It would apply to any communicable disease, not just COVID-19. Anyone who has “protective antibody levels” from contracting a communicable disease would be exempt from any vaccine mandate or requirement levied by an employer, including private businesses. The bill did not define what constitutes protective antibody levels, how those levels would be determined, what documentation would need to be provided to employers, or a course of action if those antibodies fade, which is documented to occur with some variants of COVID-19.
Last week, the Senate Committee on Government Organization voted down the bill on a 8-6 voice vote. The bill previously passed the full House 68-28. It did not come up Saturday.
HB 4643: Exempting certain health services from certificate of need
If passed, the bill would remove birthing centers from the list of medical services in the state that need a certificate of need to open.
Though the language of the bill was specific to birthing centers, its title was left broad. In the House Committee on Health and Human Resources, lawmakers voted down an amendment to make the title more specific. On the House floor, Majority Leader Amy Summers, R-Taylor, filed several amendments that could have completely repealed the state’s certificate of need process. They all failed.
The bill passed the House 86-11 on Feb. 23. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources, where it was not brought up for consideration. It did not come up Saturday.