By ANDREA LANNOM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. —Hoping to get the message to West Virginia’s congressional delegation to vote against the American Health Care Act, four groups presented their case on what the law could mean for the state.
The West Virginia Healthy Kids & Families Coalition, West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy and Alliance for Healthcare Security hosted a press conference in Charleston on Wednesday expressing concerns over the act.
Perry Bryant, president of the West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, said in his opinion, the proposed health care law would be devastating to the state.
“From my perspective, this piece of legislation is morally wrong and a financial disaster for West Virginia,” he said.
The groups addressed a few different areas, including how the health care law would affect Medicaid expansion, people going through treatment for addiction and also how it could affect the state’s budget.
Bryant said his hope is to get the state’s congressional delegation to vote against the act.
“I hope Congress will listen to the experts as opposed to listening to the political aspect of that,” he said. “We would be damaged by this piece of legislation.
Stephen Smith, executive director of the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, said the bill breaks two promises made by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump. He said the bill imposes cuts and does not lower costs.
Smith said the law would amount to a $400 million a year cut to West Virginia — $4 billion over 10 years. He said it’s mostly related to Medicaid, but it cuts overall health care as well.
“The message to Congressmen Mooney, Jenkins and McKinley is don’t break those promises to West Virginia families,” Smith said. “The basic message is we’re coming after your medicine, your children’s medicine, after your parents’ longterm care and your nephew’s drug treatment. It hits a bunch of us from a bunch of different angles.”
Bryant said the proposed health care law could undercut funding for Medicaid expansion, that West Virginia would no longer be able to afford the expansion after 2019. He said health care costs and reimbursements would go up and the gap between them also would increase.
He said about 550,000 people in West Virginia are covered through Medicaid.
Kat Stoll, director of the West Virginians Together for Medicaid said because of the change in the way Medicaid is financed, the effect would be to eliminate Medicaid expansion, dramatically reduce federal dollars for the rest of the Medicaid program.
She also said West Virginia’s ability to address opioid addiction would be “decimated.”
Chantal Fields, executive director of the West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, said the law could make West Virginia’s substance abuse epidemic worse by removing the capacity for treatment.
Fields said 26 million have health coverage through Medicaid including substance abuse treatment.
Bryant said if passed, in his view, the law would make West Virginia’s budget deficit worse.
“It’s limited to cutting services, cutting people covered or cutting reimbursements to providers,” he said. ‘I don’t think the state budget has the resources to fill the gaps and it would be forced to make these painful cuts. These are not little, small cuts. These are significant reductions.”
Smith said in his view, this hasn’t been something that he has seen many people support, talking about his experience with the health care town halls his group along with other groups hosted around the state.
“We had 1,600 come to one of our four town halls and … not a single person got to the mic and said this is what we wanted… Not one. Whether someone supports it, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats or neither, it’s not what anyone is fighting for because it doesn’t benefit anyone here.”
Bryant said the message he wanted to get across is that promises that have been made haven’t been kept.
“They were told they were going to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something terrific,” Bryant said. “The details matter — 170,000 of their neighbors and friends could lose health insurance coverage. People with pre-existing conditions could pay higher premiums. When you find out the details are much different opinion rather than making a political judgment. There are promises made that haven’t been kept.”
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