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COVID-19 and finances, expanding on Medicare and political unrest in Cuba

Inside West Virginia Politics

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – On this week’s episode of Inside West Virginia Politics, our guests join host and Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis to discuss COVID-19 in West Virginia and the pandemic’s financial impact on the economy as well as the push to have vision, dental and hearing benefits included in Medicare and what the U.S. can do to help with the current unrest happening in Cuba.

COVID-19 cases rising again in West Virginia

In Segment 1, West Virginia COVID-19 Czar, Dr. Clay Marsh to discuss the state of the virus in the Mountain State. As of Thursday, July 22, the state saw a 60% increase in Delta variant cases, going from 22 to 35 cases overnight, and active virus cases continue to climb.

Marsh says this increase is “probably just the beginning” of the Delta variant’s impact on the state. He also believes the overall increase in cases is due to people becoming more “lax” on wearing masks and social distancing, although the state’s mask mandate was lifted just over one month ago on June 20, West Virginia Day. He says this is due, in part, to the number of West Virginians still unvaccinated against the virus. As of Monday, July 26, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reported that 67.7% of the state’s eligible population has begun the vaccination process and 56.2% of those eligible for the vaccine are fully vaccinated.

Marsh also encouraged people, even those who are vaccinated, to continue wearing masks in settings where they cannot be sure everyone has been vaccinated as a way to help reduce the chance of spreading the virus to those who have not gotten or cannot get the vaccine.

COVID-19 and the stock market: What does the pandemic mean for your investments?

In Segment 2, we’re joined by John Burdette of Fourth Avenue Financial to take a look at the financial impact of COVID-19 on the stock market and investments.

Early last week, stocks went down in the U.S. Burdette says while COVID-19 concerns are playing a role in the stock markets, it is also common for the markets to take what he calls “a breather” or a correction time after a run-up. He says this will generally happen about once a year, but that we have not seen it happen since approximately 2018.

Burdette says during the pandemic, tech companies have taken off driving their stocks to a higher value compared to other companies. However, he says even with 2020 being a strange year for the markets, he is still encouraging his clients to think ahead on their assets and keep them balanced between long-term and short-term goals, especially as these correction times do happen and will happen throughout their retirement.

Protests in Cuba: How can the U.S. help the country’s people?

In Segment 3, we turn our attention to the unrest currently happening in Cuba. Representative Alex Mooney (R-WV) is a Cuban-American whose mother fled from Cuba during the 1960s. He explains more about what is happening in the country, why people are protesting and what the United States can do to help.

Mooney says Cuba is in a dire situation in regard to access to food and medicine while still dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, which Cuba does not yet have a way to treat effectively.

Cuba does not have laws protecting people’s freedom of speech or freedom of the press such as the United States has in place. Mooney says speaking out against the government in countries like Cuba typically leads to imprisonment. He says before his mother fled the country at the age of 20, she had spent seven weeks in what he describes as a communist prison, simply for the crime of not being a communist supporter.

The representative says it is a unique situation to see protestors out in such large numbers. “So it’s very encouraging to see the people finally be so fed up and call for freedom,” Mooney said.

He says the U.S., as well as other countries, should work diplomatically to help the people of Cuba get some of that freedom, even at the very minimum of condemning Cuba’s government regime and helping the country restore internet access shut down by their government so they can better communicate with the rest of the world again.

Should hearing, vision and dental benefits be included in Medicare?

In Segment 4, we’re joined by Max Richtman, CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare to discuss the issue brought up in Congress to expand dental, vision and hearing benefits to Medicare.

As of now, the issue has been included in a reconciliation budget bill. Richtman says the expansion on these benefits is “critical” because they are not “luxuries” as some people think, especially as some people need vision, dental and hearing care for their daily lives, making them essential medical needs. He says this is something the organization has been trying to make happen for a while and is glad to see there is more support in Congress than ever before to have these benefits included in Medicare.

Richtman says a roadblock in getting the benefits included in Medicare is how they will be paid for. He says one suggestion to offset funds for the benefits is to change the rules for the cost of prescription drugs in the Medicare program by allowing the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies. The idea, Richtman says, has so far been welcomed by some lawmakers.

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