WASHINGTON — Although he voted for the American Heath Care Act, U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., said it was not an easy decision to make.
“This was a tough call,” he said in a recent appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”
“I took literally hundreds of phone calls indicating either for it or against it and met with many groups. The issues of affordability of care, access to care, quality of care are in my wheelhouse and things I am really concerned about.”
The final vote was 217-213; all 217 votes were from Republican representatives, including Reps. David McKinley and R-W.Va., and Alex Mooney, R-W.Va.
Jenkins said he voted “aye” to continue the process of reforming health care going.
“Is this the perfect solution?” No,” he said. “It goes to the Senate. Work will continue. Doing nothing wasn’t an option.”
The act would eliminate the individual mandate for those who do not buy insurance, cut all “Obamacare” taxes and roll back Medicaid expansion by providing states grant money based on a per capita cap. States would also be allowed to seek waivers to opt out of certain coverages and consumer protections.
In addition, the bill set designates $8 billion for states that apply for a waiver, to fund state high-risk insurance pools to provide coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions.
Jenkins said despite claims of the sort, 187,000 West Virginians would not be thrown off of Medicaid coverage when program roll back happens in 2019.
“Nothing further from the truth,” he said.
The Republican plan also would keep popular parts of “Obamacare,” including covering pre-existing conditions and allowing young people to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until they become 26.
Ahead of the bill’s passage, hospitals, insurance companies and doctors came out against the American Health Care Bill, saying the bill would result in people losing coverage and reimbursement rates.
Jenkins, who previously served as the executive director of the West Virginia State Medical Association, said he is more concerned about protecting patients.
“This is about trying to get more flexibility at the state level, preserving the doctor-patient relationship,” he said. “Not the government’s relationship with the health care system.”
Jenkins recommended Gov. Jim Justice to not seek a waiver for pre-existing conditions if the opportunity arises. The representative said the state should keep the current system in place.
“That’s why I fought very hard to make sure those requirements are in the law,” he said.
Prior to the Thursday vote, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin said during a Politico event the “Obamacare” replacement will harm West Virginians, including those who supported President Donald Trump last year.
“They voted for you, Mr. President,” Manchin said in Washington. “They’re going to know who took it away from them.”
In January, Jenkins said he is “seriously considering” running for Senate in 2018 against Manchin.