Groups continue protest of health care plan










A crowd of around 15 local physicians, retired educators, social workers and health care lobbyists gathered Friday in front of the Beckley offices of Congressman Evan Jenkins and Sen. Shelly Moore-Capito to urge the lawmakers to vote down the American Health Care Act.

The rally was held just hours before the legislation was pulled by House of Representatives Speaker of the House Paul Ryan at the behest of President Donald Trump

The bill had drawn fire from several Republicans, who reported that it will charge senior citizens higher fees for insurance, will take away privately insured patients’ free preventative care services that are granted under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and will strip Medicaid coverage from those who have been diagnosed with substance abuse disorder and those who need mental health services.

West Virginia is set to be impacted more than any other state if ACA is replaced by the proposed plan, due to the larger number of substance abuse patients in the state, according to a recent study by Harvard and the University of New York.

The protest was attended by representatives of West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, Citizens Action Group and Alliance for Healthcare Security.

Doris Selko of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care warned Friday that all West Virginians are set to lose coverage under the GOP plan.

“Anyone in the state that has health insurance will lose services,” she said. “A third of West Virginians depend on Medicaid.

“All of those people are in danger of losing services.

“The other thing people sometimes forget, the ACA gave preventative services to anyone with insurance, without a deduction or a co-pay, and it will take that out, as well,” she added.

The GOP health care plan is backed by several conservative groups, including Center of the American Experiment, Log Cabin Republicans and Institute for Liberty. Proponents of the bill report that included tax deductions will help more people afford coverage, that the plan will keep ACA guidelines that allow young people to stay on parents’ coverage until age 26 and that it will provide an effective “entitlement reform” to cut down on government spending.

While Capito has expressed concerns about how the bill would impact West Virginians and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has said he will not support the bill, Jenkins had said he was undecided on whether or not to support the bill.

At the Friday rally, Dr. Joseph Golden, a Beckley physician, reported that the proposed bill penalizes senior citizens in West Virginia. Even with added amendments to protect seniors, the amended bill would force a 64-year-old making just over $26,000 a year to pay $14,600 for coverage in 2026, compared to $1,700 under ACA.

In Jenkins’ district, Golden said, 60,500 people will lose coverage under the GOP bill and that, according to Congressional Budget Office data, a 64-year-old American making $40,000 per year will see a projected $600 to $800 monthly premium increase immediately, if the bill passes.

“Only 5 percent of dollars spent on Medicare goes to administration, versus 20 percent of private insurance,” Golden added. “They should allow Medicare to be available, to be bought by businesses and individuals, and they would be able to get more affordable care.”

The GOP bill calls for elimination of Medicaid expansion, which has allowed substance abuse disorder patients in the state to receive addiction and mental health services that were not available prior to ACA passage.

Retired teacher Judy Robinson said she’s concerned that a reported 24 million Americans could lose health care coverage if Medicaid expansion is eliminated.

“West Virginia, with its addiction problem, they would lose all the gains that have been made in trying to get addiction centers set up,” Robinson said. “There is really nothing good about the Republican plan.

“The Republican plan only takes away,” she added. “It does not support Donald Trump’s assertion that he was going to do health care for all.

“It removes it.”

Dr. Dan Doyle, a Fayette County physician, said the GOP bill will raise premiums for lower-income Americans who work full-time.

His own son works full-time at a North Carolina grocery store. Since North Carolina refused Medicaid dollars, his son was unable to get Medicaid but procured a “very good health care plan” through the ACA Marketplace for $30 per month. Under the GOP plan, Doyle said, his son will pay up to $60 per month in premiums for the same level of coverage.

“People who have health insurance because they’ve got a job —public employees, people working for mines and other companies — sometimes forget that most of them have family members who have medical coverage for the first time because of the ACA and Medicaid expansion in West Virginia,” Doyle said. “Sometimes, they forget it’s not just about them.

“It’s about their neighbors, people at their church, their very family. Because West Virginia benefited more than any other of the 50 states from Medicaid expansion, there are very few people who don’t have family members, a neighbor, a person at their church who did not benefit from this directly.”