The Thrasher Group

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February 23, 2017 - Volume 37 Issue 4










“Search for the truth is the noblest occupation of man; its publication is a duty.” - Anne Louise Germaine de Stael (1766-1817), a French-speaking Swiss author living in Paris and abroad who influenced literary tastes in Europe at the turn of the 19th century.

By Mike Myer

It shouldn’t surprise me anymore, I suppose, that there are people who believe the only way to get something done is to have government do it.

One might think Gov. Jim Justice, who’s made more than a billion dollars in the private sector, wouldn’t have that opinion. But apparently he does.

Some legislators want to investigate the possibility of privatizing the state-owned West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine. It’s located in Lewisburg, right down the road from Justice’s Greenbrier resort.

“It makes absolutely no sense to divest yourself of such a strong asset,”Justice said in a press release.

He is absolutely right that the WVSOM is an enormous asset for our state. As Justice pointed out, ” … more than half of the primary care physicians practicing in West Virginia are graduates of the Osteopathic School.”

I know of some small communities where the D.O. is the only doctor in town. Without them, access to health care would be a big problem for many West Virginians. So by all means, let’s not cut off the flow of family doctors from the WVSOM.

It’s a quality institution, too. U.S. News & World Report has ranked it as one of the best medical schools in the United States.

But here’s the thing: No one in the Legislature is talking about shutting the WVSOM down.

What has been proposed is that the school become a private institution rather than an arm of the state. One bill introduced in the state Senate envisions “transitioning” the WVSOM to a nonprofit corporation.

That would save the state a substantial amount of money. The general fund budget this year includes more than $7.5 million for the school.

Were the question whether to spend that much or close the WVSOM down, I might well suggest legislators were being penny wise and pound foolish. But, again, that isn’t the idea.

Why not look into whether the school could be privatized — and possibly benefit from the change? If the WVSOM can operate as a non-profit, West Virginians save some money and retain our school of osteopathic medicine. If it can’t, state government can keep it (or, perhaps if a trial period of privatization doesn’t work, take it back).

Justice is worried about tuition going up at the school. He fears young Mountain State residents seeking a medical school education wouldn’t be able to afford a privatized WVSOM.

That’s a valid concern. But look at it this way: The $7.5 million we budget for the school now would cover a lot of tuition for West Virginians who need help to attend the WVSOM.

There’s nothing wrong with looking into whether the school can and should be privatized. Legislators looking into that seem to have a nothing ventured, nothing gained attitude.

What is wrong is assuming, as we do so often, that only the government can do certain things properly. Running a medical school may not be something in which the bureaucrats in Charleston have to be involved.

This “Local Column” by Mike Myer appeared in the February 19 issue of theIntelligencer/News Register and is used by permission. Myer is executive editor of the newspapers and can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.