HUNTINGTON — When lawmakers convene in Charleston Wednesday for the start of the 2020 session, members of the health committee will hit the ground running.

Along with more child welfare reform and legislation targeting substance use disorder, legislators will also consider legislation taking aim at West Virginia’s other health disparities, from postpartum care for new moms to access to doctors.

During the interim meetings in November and December, members of the Joint Health Committee received drafts of several bills to be considered this session.

Among the bills, which are not yet numbered, is one to extend Medicaid coverage to new moms up to one year postpartum.

During the 2019 session, legislators passed a bill that allows women who make up to 185% of the federal poverty level, around $31,000 for a family of two, to use Medicaid. Previously, only pregnant women who made up to 150% of the poverty level could use Medicaid.

Women’s health advocates in the state say expanding coverage for up to a year postpartum is necessary to ensure healthy babies and mothers, who need treatment for conditions like postpartum depression and gestational diabetes longer than 60 days post-birth.

With Medicaid coverage of abortion nixed since the passage of Amendment One in 2018, lawmakers will also continue work to expand birth control access. A bill with bipartisan support to allow people to obtain birth control without a prescription passed last session.

The new bill would expand access to long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) like intrauterine devices (IUDs) or the shot. The Bureau for Medical Services would be required to reimburse physicians for the full cost of the LARC and provide payment for replacement or reinsertion. The Bureau would also have to ensure multiple office visits for women who chose this contraception method are not necessary.

The bill also removes an exemption for state workers from refusing to offer family planning services if it is against their religious beliefs.

Legislators will also continue to build on legislation passed last year to protect those in recovery from substance use disorder from predatory providers.

The new bill will require treatment facilities to provide accurate and complete information in all marketing and advertising materials. It will also make it illegal for treatment facilities and recovery residences to enter into contracts with marketing providers who agree to generate leads or referrals for placement in the facilities.

Treatment facilities will also be prohibited from referring clients to recovery residences that aren’t registered with the state. Legislators also have several bills aimed at making it easier for West Virginians to receive the care they need.

One bill would require managed care organizations contracting with the state to enter into service contracts with any willing qualified provider.

Another would ensure insurance providers have an adequate network of providers. This is paired with a separate bill to try to prevent surprise billing.

Legislators will also consider bills to ban scleral tattooing, which is tattooing the white part of a human eye.

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