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Editorial: Health care plan must get support from both sides

From The Times West Virginian:

Back in 2010, when the Affordable Care Act that became widely known as “Obamacare” became the law of the United States, it was a Democratic effort.

Sure, Republican amendments were part of the legislative process, but no Senate or House Republicans voted for the Affordable Care Act in its final version.

It has been a hot political issue ever since.

Millions of Americans who did not have health insurance prior to the bill’s passage now have coverage, but there are also significant problems. Republicans have said the law is failing, citing markets around the country where insurers have pulled out or sharply boosted premiums. Some areas are down to a single insurer.

Republicans have stressed the need to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, and a bill has passed the House of Representatives with no votes from Democrats.

The political reality, though, is that a GOP-only approach is in deep trouble in the U.S. Senate.

Legislation that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky prefers would fail if just three of the 52 Republicans vote no, since all Democrats oppose it. He was forced to cancel a vote on the measure before the July 4 break after far more Republicans than that — both conservatives and moderates — objected. He’s been spending the Independence Day recess studying changes that might win over GOP dissidents.

“We have an obligation to the American people to try and improve what we currently have. What we do know is the status quo is not sustainable,” he said.

McConnell, The Associated Press reported, says he plans to produce a fresh bill, but he’s also acknowledging a Plan B if that effort continues to flounder.

“If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement, then some kind of action with regard to the private health insurance market must occur,” McConnell said Thursday.

Other Republicans have said that if their broad drive to dismantle much of Obama’s law falls short, a smaller bill with quick help for insurers and consumers might be needed. They’ve said it could include provisions continuing federal payments to insurers that help them contain costs for some low earners and inducements to keep healthy people buying policies — a step that helps curb premiums.

It’s a move that could — and should — involve Democrats.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called it encouraging that McConnell had “opened the door to bipartisan solutions.” He said the focus should be on continuing the federal payments to insurers, which President Donald Trump has threatened to halt.

Democrats have said they won’t negotiate until Republicans abandon their repeal effort.

We support the realistic approach taken by West Virginia’s senators.

“I have repeatedly said we need to repair the health-care bill, not repeal it,” said Joe Manchin, a Democrat. “We cannot go back to the days when millions of Americans were uninsured and nearly 20 percent of our GDP was spent on health care, while only being ranked 43rd in the world in health and wellness outcomes.

“The Affordable Care Act does some things well, like expanding access to preventative care, providing access to those with pre-existing conditions, and closing the Medicare Part D prescription drug doughnut hole, but the law has many flaws. That is why I have supported many fixes to the broken parts of this law. I wasn’t here when this bill passed, and the easiest thing I could do as a senator is to vote no on everything, but the people of West Virginia sent me here to solve problems, and I will continue to work to solve the problems in the health-care bill.”

“I didn’t come to Washington to hurt people,” said Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican. “Health care is something I care deeply about.”

She added that “I do think changes and reforms in Medicaid are necessary. We can’t have an open pocketbook.”

Tough decisions on the future of health care lie ahead, and we are hopeful a final resolution will draw support from both sides of the political aisle to cool an issue that affects the well-being of millions and the nation’s economy. Democrats made a major error in 2010 when they failed in this regard. Republicans — and the country — must not make a similar mistake.

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