By ADRANISHA STEPHENS
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Residents gathered at a health care town hall meeting with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in Martinsburg on Thursday to share their concerns on the approaching repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the effect it would have on the residents in West Virginia.
“Over 225,000 West Virginians right now earn insurance because of the Affordable Care Act. Over 25,000 West Virginians for the first time have been able to get treatment for their substance abuse addictions. A replacement bill that is currently being proposed would cut out coverage for tens of thousands of West Virginians,” said Dr. Rosemarie Cannarella Lorenzetti, professor and associate dean for student services at WVU, eastern division. “The recent congressional budget office report says that premiums will rise. So we are here today to talk about the impact on all West Virginia families.”
The AHCA (American Health Care Act) is the Republican-backed bill to replace the Affordable Care Act.
Manchin shared his thoughts on the repeal of the ACA.
“We have dissected and broken this down, and we agree with everything that has been said. We have to find a way to work through this. We will take your concerns, and see if we can help you with anything,” Manchin said.
“I wasn’t there in 2009. I would have worked very hard to change some of the things that were in there that I think needed to be changed now. The market products are not matching up, that’s why we have winners and losers.”
Ending the ACA state Medicaid expansion could be detrimental and mean premium increases for lower and older income consumers, according to Manchin.
“This is the most divisive thing to happen in our country. About four weeks ago, I was talking to President Trump. I asked who ultimately pays the price for this. I said, ‘Mr. President, please have a vote to repair it before you allow them to vote to repeal it. If you can’t get us to sit down and find if there is a pathway for it, I can tell you there is a couple of efficiencies to be had here,’” Manchin said.
Manchin said there are ways to fix the issues with the ACA.
“We just handed out to 20 million people the greatest gift in the world — health care — they never had and never told anybody how to use it. We can help people. To those who say there is no no accountability or responsibility, we can fix that,” Manchin said. “We have never had a major social policy in this country that hasn’t taken time to repair. Social security was not easy, Medicare was not easy. The bottom line is, we will work through it.”
Manchin said those benefiting from Medicaid could face serious risks with the proposed changes to Medicaid funding.
“When I was governor, it was the most exciting thing for me to get up every day knowing I could change and help somebody. I knew everyday I had the ability as governor to make it better for everyone in my state,” Manchin said. “Now I am a facilitator. I am trying to maneuver through this maze of changes.”
According to Katherine Stoll, a health care policy expert, Medicaid cuts in AHCA, or “Per Capita Caps,” mean people could potentially be cut off completely from health insurance.
“The bottom line is, there are about 600,000 of us in West Virginia that are at risk. Many of those could lose their coverage entirely. At least 175,00 could lose the Medicaid expansion,” Stoll said. “Our state cannot back-fill the medical cuts. We cannot shoulder the burden of the Medicaid program that the federal government or the federal bill wants to pass on to us.”
While not everyone present at the town hall was able to get their questions addressed during the event, Manchin’s office has said questions will be answered at some point.
“We will pick up every question card, and we have asked Sen. Manchin if he and his staff would be willing to respond to every question that is submitted, even those that are not spoken, and they have said they will, which we really appreciate,” said Stephen Smith, West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalitions director. “You will still get your question answered.”
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