News Articles

Paul Samuels, Chantal Centofanti-Fields: Manchin, Capito must vote down AHCA

Charleston Gazette-Mail

By Paul Samuels and Chantal Centofanti-Fields


Chantal Centofanti-Fields

West Virginia has been called “ground zero” of the opioid epidemic that is ripping across the nation. Every day, 144 Americans die from an opioid overdose. Here in West Virginia, 818 died in 2016 from drug overdoses, the highest death rate in the nation.

We see the damage that heroin and other drugs have inflicted across our communities in every corner of the state. There have been so many overdose deaths in West Virginia that medical examiners and funeral homes are overwhelmed. The state’s fund for indigent burials was depleted five months before the end of the fiscal year.

It is hard to imagine that it could get worse. But it could and it will, if the U.S. Senate’s proposed health repeal bill is enacted. The Senate version of the American Health Care Act would cripple our efforts to combat the opioid epidemic by ending the Medicaid expansion, cutting hundreds of billions of dollars in federal Medicaid funds and radically changing the structure of the program through federal funding caps.

These changes would be particularly devastating in West Virginia, which currently receives 78 percent of funding for the state’s Medicaid program from the federal government.

Based on a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office about the House version of the bill, West Virginia would lose over $4 billion in Medicaid funding over the next decade. Early analysis indicates that the loss of funding could be even greater under the Senate’s plan.

Vital programming reliant on federal Medicaid dollars, including school-based community health clinics that are a lifeline in our rural communities, would likely be unable to continue. With nearly 30 percent of West Virginians receiving health coverage through Medicaid and CHIP, the loss of this funding would mean significant reductions in the number of people and the scope of services eligible for coverage.

In West Virginia, federal funds provided through Medicaid expansion offset $43 million in state behavioral-health program funding in 2015 alone.

 Quite simply, under expansion, more federal dollars are being used to pay for addiction treatment, thus reducing the burden on West Virginia’s already strained state budget. And those savings would be expected to continue even after our state’s share of cost increases modestly in years to come.

Not only are more West Virginians able to access life-saving addiction treatment, but the state also saves money that it is now able to reinvest in the well-being of our communities.

But the impact would extend beyond Medicaid coverage and funding. According to the CBO report on the House version of health care repeal, which is the basis for the Senate’s proposal, 23 million more Americans would be uninsured. Since West Virginia’s uninsured population dropped from 14 percent in 2013 to 6 percent in 2016 — the lowest it has ever been — we can expect to see the state’s uninsured rate shoot back up if the health bill is passed in its current form.

A recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reveals that 214,500 West Virginians with mental-health and substance-use disorders are covered through state exchanges and Medicaid expansion. Prior to the requirement in the Affordable Care Act that all insurers must cover mental-health and addiction treatment as part of their essential health benefits, many health plans excluded this coverage.

Under the version of the AHCA which the Senate is now considering, this coverage would be significantly weakened or altogether stripped away, taking us back to the time when insurers could discriminate against people based on their medical histories. This would hit West Virginians especially hard, as the state has the highest share of people with declinable pre-existing medical conditions in the country.

As we continue to witness the escalating devastation of the opioid epidemic in West Virginia, we simply cannot afford to strip addiction coverage from young people and adults who need prevention, treatment and recovery supports. We simply cannot afford to bear the full burden of the cost to combat this crisis on state budgets alone.

Sen. Capito and Sen. Manchin have an obligation to ensure that health reform includes provisions that expand access to addiction prevention, treatment and recovery services. They must vote no on the Senate version of the AHCA. The health of West Virginians and the economic well-being of the state depend on it.

Paul Samuels is president of the Legal Action Center, a national nonprofit organization with a mission to fight discrimination against people with addiction, HIV/AIDS and criminal records. Chantal Centofanti-Fields is executive director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care.

Deana Lucion: Don’t cut or cap Medicaid, a lifeline for so many

Charleston Gazette-Mail
By Deana Lucion
 I am 21 weeks pregnant and get prenatal care because of Medicaid, which provides health care to almost one-third of West Virginians. Now our senators and President Donald Trump, who I voted for, want to take away Medicaid even though they promised to protect it — and us.

The health care repeal passed by the House of Representatives will kick 14 million people off Medicaid. It also will change the way the program works, putting caps on federal funding, instead of paying for care according to how much we need and use.

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Protesters Rally Against GOP Health Care Bill at Capitol

13 May 2017 — Charleston Gazette Mail
 By Erin Beck, Staff writer

Sumer Cave’s mother lost the ability to speak before she died.

Her mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer of the mouth and esophagus when Cave was 14.

Cave, 21, spoke about her mother at an event held Friday afternoon in the lower rotunda of the state Capitol to protest the American Health Care Act.

About 30 people gathered in protest of the bill, currently being considered by the U.S. Senate. The American Health Care Act, proposed by Republican leaders, cuts an estimated $880 billion over 10 years from Medicaid, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and would end Medicaid expansion in West Virginia, which has brought health care to about 170,000 West Virginians. It also would eliminate the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, among numerous other controversial provisions. All three members of the U.S. House of Representatives from West Virginia already have voted in favor of the bill.

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ACA rally draws mothers on Medicaid to state capitol

Carrie Hodousek/
Women protesters urge Sen. Capito to vote against the American Health Care Act.
 By in News | May 12, 2017 at 4:07PM

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With Mother’s Day quickly approaching, West Virginia mothers and women are urging U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) to reject the American Health Care Act the U.S. House of Representatives passed last week.

The plan, which would replace the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare, is currently before the U.S. Senate.

Carrie Hodousek/

Sumer Cave tells her mother’s story during a rally at the state Capitol Friday. Read More »

Renate Pore: House GOP’s health bill bad for just about everyone

Charleston Gazette — 07 May 2017

By Renate Pore

Let me count the ways why the GOP health care bill passed by the House on May 4 is bad for Americans and West Virginians and may ultimately be really bad for Republicans.

The entire health care industry and all consumer advocacy organizations are against it. Doctors, hospitals, insurers all believe the bill is bad for their industry. Together, the health care industry makes up almost one-fifth of the American economy. That is some amount of clout.

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Latest GOP health bill called “financial disaster for West Virginia

by in WVMetroNews | May 03, 2017 at 12:29PM

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Advocates for West Virginia families and patients are calling on the Mountain State’s three U.S. House representatives to reject the latest version of the proposed American Health Care Act, the potential Affordable Care Act replacement.

“This is a draconian piece of legislation,” said Perry Bryant, president of West Virginians for Affordable Care Act in the Capital City Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Chantal Fields, executive director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care; Stephen Smith, executive director of the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition and Perry Bryant, president of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care talked about the latest AHCA version. Read More »

Providers say GOP plan would be ‘devastating’ for addiction treatment

April 29, 2017
Erin Beck , Staff Writer

Alex Shelton, a recovering addict, works as a recovery coach at Prestera Center in the St. Albans-Jefferson area. He was able to get help for his addiction through Medicaid expansion.

Alex Shelton was that friend who shows up at your house in the middle of the night, barefoot, in the snow, and says “my car got ambushed.”
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The ACA is not safe yet

13 Apr 2017 — Charleston Gazette Mail

By Chantal Fields

Two weeks ago, America dodged a bullet. The health care repeal plan, which sold out seniors, children, families and hospitals in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy, was ultimately pulled from a vote at the very last minute.

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West Virginians’ health care at risk in Republican repeal




Two weeks ago, America dodged a bullet. The healthcare repeal plan, which sold out seniors, children, families and hospitals in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy, was ultimately pulled from a vote at the very last minute. This was a victory—but the fight is not over as reports from Washington show new headway being made by President Trump and GOP dissenters.

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