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W.Va. needs to embrace its own health reform

Public Works LLC of West Chester, Pa., is a group of efficiency experts who have helped many state governments redesign their operations to provide better service at lower cost.

Public Works reviewed the state's education system - finding it overregulated and top-heavy in administration, and suggested the state could boost achievement while saving as much as $90 million a year.

At Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's request, the firm has now studied the state Department of Health and Human Resources and the state's health care system.

The report found that West Virginia has the 10th highest private-sector health insurance premiums in the nation. That reflects a number of factors, including what West Virginians do for a living, the age of the population, the weakness of the private sector, and how much government programs shift costs to that small private sector.

As for DHHR, the agency suffers a turnover rate of 30 percent in personnel, which is well above the 3.3 percent average for non-farm employees. This means more money must be spent on training of new workers and overtime for current employees who have to cover for vacant positions.

Cutting the turnover rate in half would save the agency $3.4 million in overtime, the firm said.

Public Works also found that all grant applications  are treated the same, regardless of whether they are for a few thousands dollars or for millions. Obviously, the agency needs to prioritize these grants.

In all, the report made 78 recommendations that could generate up to $56.7 million in savings and additional grant money. That would be worth more than a quarter-billion dollars in a five-year period.

"While daunting, West Virginia's health care challenges are not insurmountable," the report found.

"Indeed, our review found that many individuals both inside and outside of state government are eager to make improvements, but feel they lack the tools and resources to make these improvements."

Lawmakers took on education and corrections shortcomings this year. Armed with a study of how the state spends its health care dollars, state officials will be much better prepared to take steps to address West Virginia's needs within its limited resources.


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