By WENDY HOLDREN
BECKLEY, W.Va. — With the impending repeal of the Affordable Care Act, thousands of West Virginians are at risk of losing their health care coverage.
President Obama spoke Wednesday morning with Democrats about why the health care plan should remain in tact; whereas Vice President-elect Mike Pence spoke to Republicans about why the measure should be repealed.
Sen. Joe Manchin told reporters midday Wednesday he could not vote for a repeal without a replacement. CNN reported Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan repeatedly dodged questions about the specifics of a replacement plan.
“I think the people have spoken loud and clear — they want something better,” Manchin said. “But I’m not going to throw 170,000 West Virginians out in the cold. I’m just not going to do that unless I see a better plan.”
The Republican-controlled Senate began the process this week to repeal the ACA through a measure called a budget resolution. If approved, a legislative process will move forward to allow Republicans to repeal the law with a majority vote.
The Republican agenda, Manchin said, is to repeal the ACA, then replace it in two to three years.
“Why don’t we sit down and fix it, vote on each of the fixes? That way nobody loses anything.”
Manchin said the repeal will create huge losses for West Virginia: 68,000 residents who received coverage through Medicaid expansion will lose coverage; more than 33,000 who gained coverage through the Exchange will lose coverage; $840 million will be lost in federal support to low income families; seniors will spend an average of an additional $1,200 per year on prescription medications; and 12,000 adults under the age of 26 will lose coverage.
“Most of the people who have benefitted from this in one way or another probably voted for Donald Trump,” Manchin said. “They don’t know what they have or how they got (health coverage)… they’ve got something they didn’t have before. You repeal it, they’ll know who took it away. They’ll know how it got scrapped.”
Votes will continue, possibly over the next couple weeks, Manchin said, to fully repeal the ACA.
He also expressed disappointment in the divide between party lines Wednesday morning, what he called “a toxic atmosphere.” With a new president, new congress and new senators, Manchin said everyone should have been invited for a discussion with both Obama and Pence.
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