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Joseph Wyatt: PEIA & pregnancy

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Will the Legislature give a young pregnant woman a break? Dependent children of state employees are covered by their parent's insurance, PEIA. Until they get pregnant. That should change.

Unfortunately, West Virginia has more than its share of teen pregnancies. According to Rachel Huff and Danielle Mullins of West Virginia Free, the Mountain State is the only state to see increases in pregnancies among 15- to 17-year-olds between 2007 and 2009.

A young girl may choose abortion. But should the daughter of a state employee decide to have her baby, the costs of her prenatal care, delivery and follow-up often shift to Medicaid or private insurance. Or the young woman may forgo prenatal care.

Without prenatal care, her baby is at risk for premature birth and low birth weight. Moreover, teen mothers carry the greatest likelihood of poor health for the baby and mother, even when they receive adequate medical care.

A premature baby may spend two months, or more, in a neonatal intensive care unit at a cost of a half million dollars. The baby may suffer birth defects that cost millions in disability benefits as it goes through life. The child is at risk to require special education services in our schools. Many of those economic costs might have been avoided if the young woman had received adequate medical care during her pregnancy, labor and delivery.

Our legislature can change things, in the same way it changed insurance mandates for treatment of children with autism just a few years ago. PEIA can do better. It's time.

•••

On a different subject, but one that also affects children, the Obama haters have responded to the President's executive orders on guns.

Tea Party Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said, "I'm against having a king or monarch." Reagan's attorney general, Ed Meese, blustered that Obama's actions may be cause for impeachment. Glenn Beck took time out from howling at the moon to sincerely say that the populace will wish to engage in a civil war. FoxNews' Sean Hannity kept a steady hand on the tiller of the USS Misinformation as he termed the president's executive orders a "gun grab." Leave it to nutty Ted Nugent, though, to make the only recommendation that is certain to succeed. He urged police not to enforce the fictional effort by the president to take away your guns.

The NRA produced an ad in which it was suggested that the president is a hypocrite because his daughters have protection by people with guns when they are at school, but that he does not want your children to have the same protection. Perhaps next the Realtors' Association of America will portray the president as a hypocrite because he lives in a big fancy house with maids and cooks, and you don't.

That aside, my research department tells me there is precedent for the notion that we will have a reasonable approach to gun control only when every American has been shot. Before he became president, Ronald Reagan was somewhat responsible for the evaporation of sensible gun restrictions. In the mid-1970s Reagan was no longer governor of California. He got work delivering five-minute homilies on the radio. In several of them he denounced modest efforts at gun control. But after he was shot he said, "I support the Brady Bill and I urge the Congress to pass it."

Wyatt is a Gazette contributing columnist and a Marshall University professor.


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