Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Interim Report: Joint Committee on Health

Ben Beakes, executive director of of the West Virginia Association of Health Plans addressed members of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Health Sunday afternoon during traveling interim meetings in Wheeling, WV. Interim meetings in the northern panhandle city run through Tuesday afternoon.

Beakes told lawmakers that the number of Medicaid-approved beds available for drug treatment in the state has increased from 648 in July 2019, to 1,610 today. He also described how health plan providers currently want to choose which facilities they will reimburse for based on the care provided and the outcomes of those patients.

John Antal, director of clinical services for Orchard Park Hospital in Wheeling, and Jacquelyn Knight, hospital CEO, described their recently opened facility that provides inpatient acute psychiatric care to adolescents.

They informed the committee that since opening in late September, they have averaged roughly five youths a day at the facility, with as many as eight at one time. Those admitted are considered suicidal or homicidal, capable of harming themselves or others. Antal and Knight described the vital need to treat these youths early, before the mental health issues become extreme.

Dr. Dan Joseph, a Wheeling-area orthodontist, asked lawmakers to help patients who choose not to go to orthodontists for care, and who instead opt for clear aligners without the supervision of a professional. Joseph told lawmakers these people need at least one examination and set of X-rays before starting treatment or major dental issues could result.

Joseph described how these companies operate. There is an impression of a patient’s teeth taken at home with no consideration of oral health, often resulting in a myriad of complications, according to Joseph. He reported seeing teeth “pushed through the bone” as well as other dental problems. Joseph told lawmakers that the best orthodontic treatment comes from formulating a diagnosis, taking appropriate measurements and working in tandem with the patient’s dentist.

Joseph asked lawmakers to consider legislation requiring those desiring to use clear aligners to first have an in-office exam with an orthodontist to assess their oral health and give a diagnosis. These sessions are typically provided for free. It would be a simple screening to assess if the patient was a good candidate for clear aligners.

Joseph praised lawmakers for offering teledentisry and telemedicine, saying those programs have done great things for the citizens of West Virginia.

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