Making real, substantial improvements in health care is not a simple process, despite what proponents of the national health care law persuaded many Americans a couple of years ago. And as government officials actually begin to read the statute, they are being forced to admit they were wrong.
Now West Virginians face a debate over both the public- and private-sector health care establishments. It comes as a result of an "audit" report requested by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. The study was conducted by Public Works, the same consulting firm that prepared recommendations on public education that were the basis for a new "reform" law.
Warning our state "is in the midst of a health care crisis," the report adds that "is not due to a lack of effort to address West Virginia's health care challenges."
Effort cited by Public Works can be measured in dollars and cents. Only three states spend more per capita on public health programs and West Virginians pay the 10th highest private health insurance premiums in the country, according to the report.
That has not translated to Mountain State residents being in the bloom of health. In fact, according to Public Works, we rank 48th in the nation in overall health outcomes.
Public Outcomes has provided a long list of recommendations for both private health care providers and government. Chief among them for Tomblin and state legislators appears to be making more efficient use of taxpayers' dollars to improve West Virginians' health. For example, the consultant's report argues changes in the state Department of Health could benefit state residents while saving us nearly $284 million during a five-year period.
The DHHR, with a budget of nearly $4 billion and more than 5,700 employees, is an enormous bureaucracy. The nature of bureaucracies is that they resist foundational change.
Tomblin and legislators, just out of a campaign to enact school improvement laws, may not be in the mood to take on another big battle. But Public Works is right: The health of Mountain State residents is a crisis. The sooner effective action is taken to treat the problem, the better.