CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The long-awaited Republican replacement proposal from U.S. House leadership for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is moving on Capitol Hill.
Unveiled Monday, members of two House committees, including the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee which 1st District Congressman David McKinley (R-W.Va.) sits on, were scheduled to take up the American Health Care Act on Wednesday morning.
On Tuesday, 2nd District Congressman Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) and the other members of West Virginia’s Congressional delegation were reviewing the proposal.
In general, Mooney said he liked what he’d seen of it initially. “We’ve got to repeal this thing,” he said of ACA. “The first step is to repeal it completely.”
He’s already co-sponsoring a similar measure Congressman Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) introduced in February, HR 1072, which is pending in the House Judiciary Committee.
“This one’s different,” Mooney said of this week’s proposal. “I still think both these plans are going to go through some tweaks and fine-tuning as we go through (the process), but certainly I’m on board with repealing Obamacare completely.”
In the Republican House plan, three popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act remain: required coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, allowances for people under the age of 26 to remain on parental insurance plans and bans on lifetime coverage caps.
Additionally, all insurers must still offer ten defined health benefits like preventative services.
The proposal, though, would end the individual mandate for health insurance retroactive to Dec. 31, 2015 along with the tax penalties assessed annually for not having coverage.
However, it does include an up to 30 percent penalty on premiums for people who let their health insurance coverage lapse.
The employer mandate requiring larger employers to offer health insurance coverage to full-time employees is eliminated in the House bill.
The income-based subsidies currently available to people buying health insurance on ACA exchanges are to be replaced with tax credits, determined by age, for people earning less than $75,000 annually and families earning below $150,000.
Tax credits would range from $2,000 for those under age 30 to up to $4,000 for those over age 60.
West Virginia is one of more than 30 states that expanded Medicaid under ACA, raising the eligibility mark to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
Under the House plan, the Medicaid expansion would continue, as is, until 2020. After that, reduced federal funding would be available for new enrollees or those returning to Medicaid.
A fixed amount of federal money per covered person on Medicaid would go to each state.
U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) is one of four Senators who’ve sent a letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicating they “will not support a plan that does not include stability for Medicaid expansion populations or flexibility for states.”
Overall, the four said they “support efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and make structural reforms to the Medicaid program.”
Joining Capito is signing that letter were U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
The letter continued, “We are concerned that any poorly implemented or poorly timed change in the current funding structure in Medicaid could result in a reduction in access to life-saving health care services.”
Mooney said he agreed with Capito’s concerns.
“I want to work with her and the House colleagues to make sure our most vulnerable are protected in West Virginia. There’s different ways of doing it,” he said on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
In a statement, 3rd District Congressman Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) said the following: “We must make sure people are protected with a reasonable transition period and that patients and doctors have time to choose the plans that work for them,” Jenkins said.
“As we go through this open and transparent process, I am fully committed to reforming our healthcare system to empower patients, lower costs, and make health insurance affordable.”
As proposed, the GOP House health bill delays the “Cadillac tax” on high-cost insurance plans employers offer to 2024 — at the earliest — and nearly doubles allowable contributions to health savings accounts.
No cost estimates for the proposed American Health Care Act were immediately available.
U.S. House leaders have indicated the goal is to send the legislation to the U.S. Senate within a matter of weeks.