Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., joined by, from left, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks to reporters as he pushes a last-ditch effort to uproot former President Barack Obama’s health care law, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

CHARLESTON — West Virginia policy experts fear the state and thousands of its residents could suffer if the latest measure to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is advanced.

At a press conference held Wednesday afternoon, Perry Bryant, president of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, said at a minimum, 200,000 West Virginians would no longer have health insurance available to them by 2027 under the bill.

“That’s at a minimum,” Bryant emphasized.

 Bryant said the legislation, known as the Cassidy-Graham bill, immediately repeals individual and employer responsibilities, which will result in a lot of healthy individuals no longer opting to have health insurance.

“Those left in the Marketplace will be older, sicker and more costly, and their premiums will go up. Some people will find it unaffordable.”

Between 2020 and 2026, Bryant said traditional Medicaid will become a per capita cap. All monies going to Medicaid expansion and Marketplace subsidies will be lumped together and spread throughout the states.

“But the rate of inflation for that is not adequate. Then in 2027, all that goes away.”

Different numbers were shared at the press conference in terms of federal dollars that West Virginia could lose. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan research and policy institute, recently reported West Virginia stands to lose $2 billion in Medicaid funding by 2027.

Bryant said without a full review from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), no one can really know the full impact.

“That’s what you really want — objective data not from the left or right, but from the CBO. That’s what they do for a living. We should wait for those reports.”

Republican members of Congress in favor of repe

al, however, do not want to wait for those reports, which would be delivered later than Sept. 30, when budget reconciliation privileges expires. The budget reconciliation bill allows bills to advance with only 51 votes, a simple majority, instead of the standard 60 votes to pass.

Bryant said if the U.S. Senate passes the bill, House Republicans, too, would likely try to push the measure forward before the deadline.

“Whether it’s $2 billion or $3 billion, that kind of reduction in expenditures in health care will have a tremendous impact on West Virginians,” Bryant said. “There’s no way the state can make up that kind of money. They’ll have to cut services, have to cut the number of people, or cut the reimbursements to providers. Those are basically their only three choices. It will be painful no matter what they decide to do if this bill passes.”

West Virginia Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, also highlighted the number of jobs at risk if the ACA is repealed.

“I think sometimes people forget how jobs in West Virginia, good jobs, have come to our state in the health care field because of the ACA. It’s kind of a miracle if you ask me.”

Fleischauer also expressed concerns about the state’s budget in

terms of federal Medicaid dollars.

 “We had bipartisan support of Medicaid funding. We covered the funding for Medicaid, and we could not have done that without help from the federal government. We are in good shape this year. We are in good shape next year.”

She continued, “But if this bill passes, the rough times we’ve had

for the last three years of trying to balance the budget when we were millions and millions in deficit will increase astr

onomically, especially when we hit 2026-27.”

Stephen Smith, executive director of West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, called the legislation “the same pig with different lipstick.”

He said for some Americans, this is a life or death issue.

Smith was especially critical of the bill because no extra funding has been approved to fight the opioid crisis.

“Sen. (Shelley Moore) Capito, in a moment of candor, has said, ‘I did not come to Washington to hurt people.’ I’ve seen her vote over and over again on bills that aren’t this bad. We need her to vote against this one as well.”

Press conference speakers urge those opposed to repeal to contact their senators.

Bryant said a rally will be held Sunday at 5 p.m. at Sen. Capito’s Charleston office across from City Hall.

— Email: wholdren@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @WendyHoldren