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.
“The proposal being considered by Congress is not only morally wrong, it is a financial disaster for West Virginia.”
Kat Stoll, director of West Virginians Together for Medicaid, agreed — calling the measure a “fundamentally flawed bill.”
Trump Administration officials have indicated a vote on the health plan will come this week in the U.S. House of Representatives.
President Donald Trump has reportedly been personally involved in vote wrangling.
It was not clear, as of Wednesday, where 1st District Congressman David McKinley (R-W.Va.), 2nd District Congressman Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) and 3rd District Congressman Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) would fall on the issue.
McKinley was listed as “unclear” or “undecided” on several lists from national news organizations.
A previous attempt to pass an Obamacare replacement was abandoned in March due to lack of enough support.
It’s been changed since then.
The latest version of the bill would allow states to apply for waivers from meeting essential health benefit requirements for coverage in ACA, like emergency, maternity and mental health care, and lift protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
“It takes up back to the dark days when, if you had asthma or if you had diabetes or you were born with a heart disease, you could no longer get insurance — you had a pre-existing condition,” said Chantal Fields, executive director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care.
“How many people in West Virginia does that affect? Well, there’s only 1.8 million of us here and 800,000 of us, including myself, have a pre-existing condition.”
An additional $8 million for those with pre-existing conditions was added to the bill early Wednesday.
If it becomes law, Bryant estimated West Virginia stands to lose $4 billion in Medicaid funding alone over ten years, an average of $400 million annually, and will no longer be able to fund the Medicaid expansion — covering 170,000 people — beginning in 2019.
About 30 percent of West Virginia’s population is currently on Medicaid, according to Stoll.
With AHCA, she said, even those who retain coverage will see benefit cuts and hospitals and health providers face funding reductions for services provided.
“We are calling on our congressmen today to do what’s right for West Virginia instead of what’s right for Washington,” said Stephen Smith, executive director of the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition.
In its current form, he said he believes the AHCA bill sends a “very clear message” from Republicans in Congress to West Virginia families.
“It says, ‘Dear Families, We are coming for your medicine. We are coming for your children’s medicine. But not only that, we are coming for your parents’ long-term care and your nephew’s substance abuse treatment.’”
As proposed, AHCA would end the ACA individual mandate for health insurance retroactive to Dec. 31, 2015 along with the tax penalties assessed annually for not having coverage.
Income-based subsidies currently available to people buying health insurance on ACA exchanges are to be replaced with tax credits determined by age and income.
A whole list of groups, including AARP, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Medical Association, have opposed the GOP ACA replacement proposal.
As a candidate, Smith said President Trump promised reforms that lowered costs of health care while not reducing the levels of care people are currently receiving.
“From every measure, this bill would break both of those promises,” he argued.
The U.S. House is scheduled to begin a recess Friday that runs through May 16. Thursday had been one of the target dates for an AHCA vote.
If the bill gains U.S. House approval, passage in the U.S. Senate is far from guaranteed.
“It is clear that some people in Washington — lobbyists, politicians, etc. — are going to get rich off of this plan. It wouldn’t have made it this far if that weren’t the case,” Smith said.
“It is also clear that this will hurt the hell out of our state and, especially, working families and their children.”