By TAYLOR STUCK
WASHINGTON —West Virginia’s delegation to the U.S. Senate is in agreement – the Republican health care bill is not good for West Virginia.
While Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has voiced his opposition since the House passed its version of the American Health Care Act, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., had reserved judgment – until Tuesday.
That’s when she and Republican Ohio Sen. Rob Portman announced their opposition to the bill after the Senate delayed the vote for the Senate health care discussion draft.
While Capito still believes the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” is not working for West Virginians, she said the Senate bill is not the right fix for West Virginians and her concerns will need to be addressed moving forward.
Portman said the Senate draft includes some promising changes to reduce premiums in the individual insurance market, but he still has concerns about the Medicaid policies in the bill, especially those that impact drug treatment.
“For months, I have engaged with my colleagues on solutions that I believe are necessary to ensure that we improve our health care system and better combat this opioid epidemic. Unfortunately, the Senate draft falls short and therefore I cannot support it in its current form. In the days and weeks ahead, I’m committed to continue talking with my colleagues about how we can fix the serious problems in our health care system while protecting Ohio’s most vulnerable citizens.”
In a call with West Virginia press Tuesday, Manchin said if the president thinks the House bill had no heart, then the Senate bill has no soul.
“I hope we can sit down and start working to fix the private markets, handle the expansion with more compassion and teach them to use it in a more effective manner,” Manchin said. “No one doesn’t think the ACA needs to be repaired. Repealing it is not repairing it. I would rather fix it. That’s the posture I’m in, and I’ll stay there.”
Many West Virginians agree. A poll released Monday by the American Medical Association found only 19 percent of West Virginians think the health care legislation passed by the House is a good idea, compared with 34 percent who think the ACA is a good idea.
Voters oppose eliminating the individual mandate while allowing insurers to charge higher premiums for those who have not had consistent coverage, allowing insurers to charge those with pre-existing conditions more, eliminating funding for Medicaid expansion and to fight the opioid crisis, and federal subsidies for low-income people to purchase basic coverage without preventative care, routine doctors’ visits, tests and minor operations.
The Senate was expected to vote on reconciliation to begin discussions on the draft Wednesday, but Senate majority leaders announced Tuesday afternoon the vote would be postponed until after the Fourth of July.
See more from The Herald-Dispatch