Senate Bill 184
February 14, 2017
The West Virginia Osteopathic Medical Association, which is the leading organization representing the 1,265 licensed osteopathic physicians in the state, is opposed to SB 184 which will privatize the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg. The bill gives away over $120 million in taxpayer cash and property to a corporate entity with little or no protections. Tuition for prospective in-state students could double.
Over many years, the state and WVSOM students have invested millions of dollars into the school’s buildings, curriculum and its mission to provide primary care physicians to fill gaps in West Virginia’s network of providers.
The association has major concerns about the proposal to privatize the school:
· Various stakeholders have not been consulted by persons promoting the privatization plan.
· No business plan has been presented to stakeholders that demonstrates the financial success of the school if it were privatized.
· The school has allowed many West Virginians to receive affordable medical education, which otherwise would have been too expensive for them to obtain, and there is no assurance that a privatized school would be able to continue to keep that education affordable for West Virginia students.
· Privatization of the school could result in equalization of tuition between in-state and out-of-state students, which would create a barrier to many West Virginians who want to become osteopathic physicians.
· Because of its status as a state-owned institution, the school has been able to develop programs for students to do off-campus residencies at hospitals across the state. If it would become a privatized institution, the school would have to compete with domestic and off-shore medical schools for such placements.
In addition, there has been some discussion about expanding programs at the school, but the association is concerned about the cost of such changes and the possibility that the school would lose its focus of educating doctors of osteopathy.
If the main concern of those proposing privatization is the control the Higher Education Policy Commission has over the School of Osteopathic Medicine, there are better ways to address that concern. For example, the HEPC could be removed from that control, and oversight for the board could be left to the school’s board of governors, which has members appointed by the governor.
When legislation privatized West Virginia University Hospitals a few decades ago, it provided to a board of directors that still was appointed by the governor. If WVSOM were privatized, that system should be followed. Further, any new form of organization should assure that the chairperson and at least 51 percent of board members are licensed doctors of osteopathy.
The current version of the legislation does not include any safeguards that will protect the state’s assets and investment in the WVSOM. This move to privatize may eliminate an educational option for the state’s citizens.
For More Information: Tom Susman 304-552-2064