Nov. 22--Monongalia County Health Officer Lee Smith said he believes the health department's insurance provider is using COVID-19 to engage in price gouging.
Both Smith and the Monongalia County Commission are asking Attorney General Patrick Morrisey to get involved.
In a letter to Morrisey, Smith explains that the cost of the MCHD's essential liability insurance has jumped from $30, 038 to $53, 376--a 44 % increase this year.
"The reason we are told is because the insurance underwriters are not sure about the increased liability of us being out in the field doing testing, " Smith told the commission. "Now, I haven't killed anybody with a Q-tip ever. So I'm not sure if this isn't a little bit of ... Personally, I would feel that maybe this is taking advantage of the situation."
Smith has been outspoken regarding an overall lack of support for public health, including a 25 % overall reduction in funding from the state in 2016.
This hits particularly hard, he explained, as health departments have essentially been under the gun seven days a week for some 250 days as the nerve center of the local COVID-19 response.
Despite that, Smith explains there have been no problems, and no legal claims made against the health department.
"We feel that this unannounced increase is excessive, unjustified and equates to gouging for essential liability protection during a state of emergency that should be prohibited under the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act (46A-6J-1), " Smith explains in his letter to Morrisey.
The Dominion Post reached out to the health department for additional information but received no response.
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