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Editorial: Can 60 senators from middle make something happen with health care?

From The Times West Virginia of Fairmont:

Folks on the far left and far right are sure to be disappointed.

We can only hope that those in the middle can bring some sanity to the long, often fierce debate over health care in the United States.

The Republican-run Senate voted 51-49 early Friday morning to reject Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s attempt to sustain their drive to dismantle President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, The Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010, with a trimmed-down bill.

Senate Democrats — all 48 of them — were joined in opposition by three Republicans — Maine’s Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Arizona’s John McCain. The 80-year-old McCain, just diagnosed with brain cancer, had returned to the Capitol three days earlier to provide a vote that temporarily kept the repeal and repeal-and-replace drive alive for debate.

The legislation defeated Friday included a repeal of unpopular tax penalties on people who don’t buy insurance policies and on employers who don’t offer coverage to workers.

President Donald Trump has stressed that he is eager to sign legislation repealing the ACA.

The reality is that “Obamacare,” hated by conservatives and passed without a single Republican vote, is not going to disappear. Those on the left who would love a single-payer system for all are also not going to see their dream realized.

That’s just fine for Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who said on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline” show that, combining the Democrats and Republicans, “there should be 60 of us in the middle to make something happen.”

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who voted for the “skinny repeal” Friday, also hopes to be involved in productive legislation that can be accepted by the House, Senate and a majority of the American people.

Capito said she has talked with people of both political parties and hopes to be “one of the ones in the middle of it.”

Capito, who has voted for repeal in the past when Obama was president and sure to veto such action, and Manchin know changes must come in the U.S. system of health care.

“For years, I have listened to the concerns many in West Virginia have about ‘Obamacare,’” Capito said in a statement following Friday’s vote.

“Since the outset of this debate, I have clearly stated that we need to care for those who rely on health coverage and access through West Virginia’s Medicaid expansion. I have also fought for additional resources to help those who are combatting the devastating effects of the opioid epidemic. At the same time, health insurance premiums in West Virginia’s individual market have increased by 169 percent over the past four years, and action needs to be taken to lower premiums and expand consumer choice for West Virginians.

“I voted on Tuesday for a measure to repeal and replace ‘Obamacare;’ however, it failed to pass. The failure to pass legislation to repeal and replace ‘Obamacare’ does not change the need to fix our broken health-care system. As we go forward, I stand ready to work with my colleagues on bipartisan solutions that result in affordable coverage and expanded options for West Virginians.”​

A strictly partisan move, as we have stressed throughout this debate, is what the country does not need. That is how the ACA, which has gained in popularity in comparison to the proposals to replace it, came into existence.

“Tonight the Senate rejected the partisan approach to repealing the Affordable Care Act. As I have said before, the only way to fix what is wrong with the Affordable Care Act is to work together in a bipartisan way to improve the system for all Americans,” Manchin said in a statement Friday morning.

“We gave millions of our neighbors the greatest wealth in health care and now we need to educate them on how to use it responsibly and efficiently. I remain committed to working with all of my colleagues — Democrats and Republicans — to ensure all West Virginians and Americans have accessible and affordable health care.”

That can only occur if the middle prevails.

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