WASHINGTON, W.Va. — As it stands now, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he does not believe the proposed American Health Care Act, now pending in the U.S. House as a potential Obamacare replacement, has a chance of getting approval from the U.S. Senate.
“There’s nobody out there giving us anything that has a pathway forward,” he said Wednesday. “I don’t think they can pass it in the Senate. With the Republicans, I don’t think all the Republicans will support it.”
In Manchin’s view, the AHCA would hit West Virginia on three fronts through exchange subsidy eliminations, higher health costs for the elderly and Medicaid cuts.
In general, the AHCA proposal would end the individual mandate for health insurance retroactive to Dec. 31, 2015 along with the tax penalties assessed annually for not having insurance coverage.
The income-based subsidies currently available to people buying health insurance on Affordable Care Act exchanges, like West Virginia’s, are to be replaced with tax credits determined by age and income.
Older people would pay more for care than younger people.
As proposed, the Medicaid expansion would end beginning in 2020 and the federal government would pay less for Medicaid reimbursements.
“They’re trying to get everybody past the election cycle. Just look at some of the timing that’s put on this,” said Manchin. “There’s got to be a moral compass somewhere.”
Currently, 28 percent of West Virginia’s residents are on Medicaid.
Earlier this week, the Congressional Budget Office released a report that projected 24 million people would lost their health insurance by 2026 under AHCA compared with those currently insured under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Overall, it’s estimated federal deficits will be reduced by $337 billion in the coming decade with AHCA largely due to less spending on Medicaid along with the elimination of the ACA subsidies for people buying health insurance on state exchanges.
Manchin said he knows ACA needs work.
“If you’re not part of the (Medicaid) expansion, you’re not part of the (exchange) credits that you were getting because of your income and if you’re above that, you’re getting nailed to the wall. I understand,” he said.
“You’re paying higher premiums, much higher deductibles, it’s the same as having no insurance. That can be fixed. You’ve got to get products and markets matched up.”
There’s room for compromise, Manchin argued.
“I think once you go down this slippery slope of repealing it and them basically saying, ‘Ok, now here’s the repairs,’ and you start trying to repair and you need 60 votes to repair. They can get rid of it with 51,” he said.
“Then it doesn’t get (repaired) because some Democrats aren’t happy, it wasn’t enough, it wasn’t this, it wasn’t that, it wasn’t perfect enough and then the Republicans blame the Democrats.
On Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline,” Manchin said he was willing to work on changes to ACA or some other form of compromise health reform legislation but cannot support AHCA in its current form.
“I am not willing to say, ‘I’m going to give the extremely wealthy multimillionaires $575 billion for the savings of $300 billion that you’re saying you’re going to save on it and, basically, lose all the coverage for people who are the most vulnerable — our senior citizens, our elderly, the poor,'” he told Hoppy Kercheval.
“It’s just ridiculous.”
Manchin will talk about the proposed AHCA and other issues during four town hall meetings in the coming days. The schedule for those town halls, organized by constituents, is as follows:
11 a.m. Thursday, March 16
Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center
6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 16
2 p.m. Friday, March 17
Keith Albee Theater
3:30 p.m. Saturday, March 18
Waterfront Conference Center