By ERIN BECK
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice said Thursday that congressional Republican leaders’ plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act “would cripple us beyond belief.”
Senate leadership said earlier this week that a vote on a similar plan, that chamber’s Better Care Reconciliation Act, would not take place until after the Fourth of July recess.
With 52 Republican senators, GOP leaders can afford to lose only two votes and still pass the bill without Democratic support. Several Republican senators already have said they couldn’t support the bill. After the vote delay was announced, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va, said she also could not support the bill.
Justice, a Democrat, said in a previous letter to members of West Virginia’s congressional delegation, that “[f]ederal funding must be maintained or West Virginia’s healthcare infrastructure will collapse.”
Asked for comment Thursday, Justice’s spokesman, Grant Herring, sent a statement:
“Taking away coverage and throwing our people to the wolves is wrong,” the governor said. “I agree with Senator [Joe] Manchin [D-W.Va.] and Senator Capito that any cut to Medicaid would be a disaster for West Virginia.”
Capito has said the bill cuts traditional Medicaid “too deeply.”
“It’s not the Mountaineer way, to turn our back on the old, the sick, the poor and disabled; but that’s exactly what our state Legislature did when they cut state support for Medicaid,” the governor said. “Adding a federal cut to Medicaid on top of that would cripple us beyond belief.
“The state Legislature’s action could be the final nail in our coffin, because it hurts our people regardless of whatever happens in D.C.,” Justice said. “The people need to know that the politicians in our state Legislature cut the legs out from underneath us.”
Justice has said the state budget minimized Medicaid cuts by using “fake surplus money.”
Several governors from both parties have said they can’t support the bill, which would make deep cuts to Medicaid, repeal ACA taxes on the wealthy and its annual fee on insurance providers, and reduce subsidies for nongroup health insurance, among other provisions.
Recently asked for comment on the Senate health reform bill, Lalena Price, spokeswoman for the state insurance commissioner, sent a joint statement, which also referenced state budget cuts, from Insurance Commissioner Allan McVey and DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch.
“Governor Justice has repeatedly expressed concern for our elderly, the disabled, and West Virginians who count on Medicaid,” the statement said. “He doesn’t want to throw our people to the wolves, but the state Legislature refused to listen, and now we are seeing the consequences of their reckless budget.
“Because the state Legislature cut $54 million from West Virginia’s Medicaid budget and backfilled it with hocus pocus one-time money, it makes any federal cuts to Medicaid that much worse. The state’s Medicaid hole will still be there next year, and it will only get deeper and deeper if Washington pulls back funding.
“What the West Virginia Legislature did could be the final nail in our coffin, because it puts more than the 175,000 people on Medicaid expansion at greater risk. Our state legislators didn’t listen to our governor and now they have been totally caught off guard.”
West Virginia was one of 31 states that expanded Medicaid, to cover people who make up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, after the Affordable Care Act was enacted. About 170,000 West Virginians have coverage through the expansion.
The Republican bill would decrease the federal matching rate, which is currently about 90 percent, for the expansion population. The DHHR’s Crouch said any reduction in the federal matching rate would “create an unsustainable financial obligation” for West Virginia.
The bill also would cut Medicaid funding for those not covered by the expansion. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the current version of the bill would cut Medicaid by $772 billion over 10 years, based mainly on ending the extra funding for states that expanded Medicaid and setting per-capita-based caps on Medicaid payments to states.
The CBO estimated that 15 million fewer people would have Medicaid in 10 years, compared to 14 million fewer under the House version of the bill.
About 30 percent of West Virginians are covered by Medicaid.
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