Government, Latest News, Monongalia County

MCHD price gouging concerns passed on to state insurance commissioner

MORGANTOWN — In November, Monongalia County Health Officer Lee Smith said he believed the health department’s insurance provider was using COVID-19 as an excuse to engage in price gouging after the MCHD’s essential liability insurance jumped 46%, from $30,038 to $53,376.

Smith and the Monongalia County Commission sought the opinion of Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office, which has now passed the issue to the West Virginia Insurance Commissioner.

A Jan. 28 letter from Assistant Attorney General Laurel Lackey indicated that insurance premiums are not covered under the state’s price gouging statute.

“Although Dr. Smith’s concerns do not fall under our purview, we believe it would be appropriate for the Office of the Insurance Commissioner to address Dr. Smith’s concerns,” Lackey wrote.

In other county news, the commission received a check for $112,527.79 as repayment for a “bridge loan” provided to the Cheat View Public Service District in November of 2016. 

The loan dates back to the Easton Hill intersection redesign, during which the PSD had to move its 4-inch water main about 2,220 feet.

Commissioner Tom Bloom said the commission has been determined to recoup those funds.

“It would have been very easy for this county commission to move on. It’s been four-and-a-half years. It’s been difficult. There’s no blame. It got caught in the system.” Bloom said. “People should know this county commission will make sure all funds are accountable if there’s money owed.”

Also Wednesday, the commission said it will consult legal counsel regarding a request from Blacksville’s Town Council,  which is asking for help with  abandoned and dilapidated properties.

County Administrator Rennetta McClure said there are questions about whether the county can legally enact an ordinance within a municipality without a standing intergovernmental agreement. 

“Even if we can’t do anything, we can still share best practices and give them some assistance,” Commission President Sean Sikora said.

Lastly, the commission received a note of thanks from Make-A-Wish of Greater Pennsylvania and West Virginia for a $4,400 grant provided by the county.

That money helped fund an online shopping spree for Kylie, an 18-year-old from Fairview,  suffering from osteosarcoma.

The incoming 2021 virtual freshman at WVU purchased an iPad, among many other items.

Jackie Austin, regional Make-A-Wish manager, said, “Kylie’s online shopping spree wish helped make her life a lot brighter during a dark time.”

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