West Virginia editorial roundup

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

Dec. 1

News and Sentinel, Parkersburg, W.Va., on ensuring insurance rates are realistic:

West Virginia legislators should continue looking into a proposal they increase minimum requirements for vehicle insurance in the state — but they need more information before proceeding.

State law requires motorists to carry insurance with specified minimum coverages. Currently, they are $20,000 for bodily injury to one person involved in an accident, $40,000 for two or more, and $10,000 for property damage. Obviously, those limits are too low, in view of costs for medical care and vehicle replacement.

A bill to increase those minimums to $25,000, $50,000 and $25,000, respectively, was introduced earlier this year in the state Senate. It never made it to a vote on the Senate floor.

Legislators discussed the issue again during the recent interim meeting. Jill Rice, president of the West Virginia Insurance Federation, said many in the industry worry about the side-effects of increasing the limits. That would require higher premiums for base insurance and might prompt some drivers to drop their coverage altogether, she told lawmakers.

A substantial number of motorists rely on minimum coverage in their vehicle insurance policies. Rice said she was not certain of a number, but estimated it could be in the range of 17 percent of drivers in the state.

The meeting left legislators with as many questions as answers. One is what percentage of those carrying minimum coverage are high-risk drivers more likely to be involved in accidents.

Another is the effect of not changing the law on the remaining 83 percent or so of West Virginia’s motorists.

Someone has to pay for medical treatment of people injured in accidents, and for repairs or replacement of damaged property. When the person at fault in an accident does not have insurance adequate to do that, the burden often falls on the victim’s insurance.

That can mean higher premiums for everyone.

Reasonable people do not like the idea of pricing insurance out of the reach of low-income West Virginians, of course. But adequate insurance, like car payments and gasoline prices, needs to be considered as part of the cost of operating a vehicle.

If lawmakers determine the current minimum requirements are unrealistically low and are forcing most West Virginians to subsidize those with such coverage, the limits should be increased.




Dec. 3

The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, W.Va., on the governor taking a much-needed step to tackle homelessness:

Efforts to reduce homelessness have made some headway in recent years, thanks to new strategies initiated by various agencies.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, for example, has adopted and implemented a Housing First approach that first places an emphasis on placing homeless individuals in housing so they are better able to tackle the issues that lead to their homeless plight.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has recognized that veterans of the military services are more likely to face homelessness than those who didn’t serve their country. To help them, the Huntington VA Medical Center brought its services for homeless veterans under one roof at the Homeless Veterans Resource Center, 624 9th St., Huntington. The emphasis there also has been on placing veterans in permanent housing and providing them with services and support.

Despite those efforts, too many West Virginians are still without a place to call home. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has recognized that, and he has moved to revive efforts aimed at reducing the numbers.

Last week, Tomblin signed an executive order revamping the Interagency Council on Homelessness, which was created in 2007 by former Gov. Joe Manchin but has been dormant the past few years. Tomblin’s order shifts the council from the Office of Economic Opportunity in the Department of Commerce to the Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities in the Department of Health and Human Resources, according to a report by The Charleston Gazette. The DHHR is a better fit for the council, Tomblin said.

In explaining the move, Tomblin referred to a study conducted by the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness that found there are 3,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the state. Forty-five percent of those homeless people are families, 18 percent are chronically homeless, and 15 percent are veterans, according to the study.

The new council’s overall mission is lofty: putting an end to homelessness in the state. To work toward that, its goals include expanding and maximizing housing resources, increasing access to state and federal social services resources, maximizing availability of mental health and substance abuse treatment programs, and ensuring that persons released from state institutions have access to programs to prevent homelessness, according to the Gazette report.

All of those objectives appear to be on target in addressing issues that so often lead to people living on the streets or having no permanent home.

It’s laudable that the governor has recognized this continuing need and put in place a group to address it. This council’s work, combined with efforts already underway by other agencies, should provide a more comprehensive effort to reduce the number of people who do not have a place to call home.




Dec. 2

Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette on birth control:

In the notorious 2010 Citizens United case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations are “persons” who are entitled to “free speech” — meaning they can give corporate money for political campaign ads (mostly for Republicans).

Now the high court has agreed to decide whether corporations have “freedom of religion” — meaning that a churchly owner can prevent his women employees from obtaining birth control through company-provided insurance, if his faith says birth control is evil.

Wait a minute. Why does only the corporate president have freedom of religion? Why don’t his women employees enjoy the same freedom? Generally, most women want birth control — and we doubt that they want their boss to obstruct them.

This Supreme Court showdown is another battle over the Affordable Care Act, which mandates that all American women who want it may obtain birth control at no cost.

We hope justices rule that women employees have a choice in this matter. The decision shouldn’t be made solely by their employer.



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