Editor’s Note: This is the first of a three-part series looking into the nation’s current health care dilemma.
By MATTHEW BURDETTE
ELKINS, W.Va. — As Congress bickers over the possible repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, concerns continue to mount throughout the country and in the Mountain State that coverage may be adversely impacted under newly proposed plans.
One former local lawmaker, though, is on the front lines, going to bat for West Virginia residents and those most in need.
Armed with a lifetime of health care expertise, former Delegate Denise Campbell recently testified before Senate Democrats in Washington on the pitfalls of the proposed plans and the impact they would have on rural West Virginia.
Campbell stressed the importance of a strong health care plan, one that will not only adequately cover the nation’s people as a whole, but one that will not leave behind those in rural, community health care-driven regions. She also noted that health care should not be a partisan issue, but one that is given the utmost and most serious consideration.
“This is a big concern, because West Virginia has a high population of individuals over the age of 65,” Campbell said. “One of the biggest unknowns is that people are not aware of is those individuals benefit from Medicaid waiver and expansion. Some senior citizens live off $650 a month. There would be a large impact on the senior population in West Virginia.”
Campbell says there are many more pitfalls to currently proposed plans, including people being able to afford in-home care, nursing homes, the Meals on Wheel program, the cost of medication and even those getting treatment for drug addiction.
“Some numbers (in these plans) cut as much as $834 billion for Medicaid,”Campbell said. “This would mean cuts of $4-5 billion over 10 years in West Virginia. There is 170,000 people in West Virginia covered under Medicaid expansion. In West Virginia, 24,000 people are getting drug treatment for addictions through Medicaid. Where does that leave them?”
Aside from the impact on Mountain State residents, Campbell also is concerned about the overall health of the state and its economy,
“Part of some of the proposals for the new health care plan is that each individual state is going to be taking that (financial) burden on,” Campbell said.
“I think the goal is that everyone involved are for the whole country,” Campbell added. “This is a huge undertaking. All the major stakeholders need to be at the table. It’s just all the bickering and fighting going on among the ranks. But, it’s an issue that need addressed.”
Aside from people losing their health coverage because of pre-existing conditions and the plight of rural residents, Campbell also is concerned that rural institutions could disappear altogether.
“If some rural hospitals close, what are we going to have,” she said. “That access to care will be gone, which will negatively impact the health of West Virginians and people all across the country.”
“My whole goal since I’ve been in health care is to be an advocate and speak up for people,” Campbell added. “My big fear with a large piece of legislation is that we have to avoid unintended consequences. People shouldn’t have to choose between buying medicine or buying food, or buying food or paying the electric bill. They need to get the care at the time they need it, or there will be negative outcomes. It really can come down to life and death.”
Lawmakers in Washington have not set a time to take up the issue again, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced late Saturday that he was delaying a new vote until U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., returns from surgery. McCain recently underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from above his eye. The senator’s doctors advised him to remain in Arizona this week to recover.
Before McCain’s absence, the legislation was opposed by two Republican senators.
The GOP holds a 52-48 majority in the U.S. Senate.
See more from The Inter-Mountain