WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) is not among the Republicans getting on board immediately with the proposed American Health Care Act, the possible Obamacare replacement now moving in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The GOP bill made it closer to the U.S. House floor when it advanced out of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee early Thursday morning as debate continued within the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.
If it becomes law, the proposal would end the individual mandate for health insurance retroactive to Dec. 31, 2015 along with the tax penalties assessed annually for not having coverage.
The Republican plan includes a 30 percent premium penalty for lapses in coverage lasting for more than 63 days.
The income-based subsidies currently available to people buying health insurance on Affordable Care Act exchanges are to be replaced with tax credits determined by age and income.
In general, Capito said she could support the idea of such credits.
“Where the question comes for me is — what is the size of the tax credit and is it actually being targeted towards the folks who need the tax credit the most in the amount (they need)?”
During an appearance on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline,” she argued the greatest support from the tax credits should go to lower income households, as opposed to those making more, to incentivize getting off Medicaid.
Additionally, Capito said she had “deep concerns” about what effects the bill, as currently written, would have on the Medicaid expansion in West Virginia which was one of more than 30 states that added to the Medicaid rolls under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
“Those questions that I have have not been adequately answered, in my opinion, so I’m still looking at this very, very closely,” she said Thursday.
With the House GOP plan, the Medicaid expansion would continue, as is, until the end of 2019. After that, reduced federal funding would be available to new enrollees or those returning to Medicaid.
A cap on federal money per covered person on Medicaid, which is available to low-income families, pregnant women, children and the disabled, would also go to each state if the AHCA becomes law as currently written. Right now, the federal government matches state funds for qualifying Medicaid expenses.
“The state needs more flexibility to deal with this population, to make sure that they can get coverage and that some of the shackles of the Medicaid funding isn’t imposed on them and that’s not adequately addressed in this bill,” she said.
“It is very complicated, as we know, but I do think having flexibility by the state and having the state make decisions in this area is much better than a one-size-fits-all that’s been coming out of Washington over the last several years.”
Leslie Dach, campaign director with the Protect Our Care Coalition, talked about his opposition to the proposed American Health Care Act on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
He admitted certain provisions of ACA need work.
“Unfortunately, the approach that House and Senate leadership have taken on Capitol Hill is a choice that basically blows up the health care that we have and that’s a choice I think that’s deeply unpopular with the American public but, more importantly, is going to take health coverage away from millions and raise costs on millions more,” Dach said.
Capito’s one of four Senators who sent a letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) earlier this week indicating no support for “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.”
Even though the Congressional Budget Office has not produced a report on the potential costs of AHCA, U.S. House leaders have said the goal is to pass the bill out of the House before the end of March.
Though she cannot yet fully support the proposed American Health Care Act, “I’m definitely for repealing Obamacare and having a replacement plan that meets the needs where Obamacare’s fallen short,” Capito said on “Talkline.”
“We need to move here, we just need to make sure we’re moving in the right direction.”