CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice sent letters Thursday to U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., thanking them for opposing the Senate health care legislation.
Justice sending two separate yet similar letters, noting how the bill caused serious concerns, especially regarding phasing out the Medicaid expansion.
“We can’t put the 175,000 West Virginians who benefit from the Medicaid expansion at risk of losing coverage,” he said. “The consequences would be beyond catastrophic.”
The letter comes two days after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced Tuesday a vote on a revised bill would happen after the Fourth of July recess.
The first bill would have phased out Medicaid expansion beginning in 2021 with deeper cuts compared to the House of Representative’s health care plan.
In addition, older people under the age of 65 years old could pay five times as much for coverage compared to younger people. Companies would also not be required to cover “essential health benefits,” including maternity and mental health care.
The individual and employer mandate would also be repealed under the Senate health care proposal, and states would have access to $2 billion worth of grants to address opioid addiction.
The Congressional Budget Office reported Monday 22 million more Americans would lose coverage by 2026 compared to if the former President Barack Obama’s health care law remained in place.
The agency said Thursday Medicaid spending would be 26 percent lower by 2026 under the Senate proposal.
Manchin came out against the bill on June 22, the day it was unveiled to the public.
Capito said that day she was reviewing the legislation, though she noted on MetroNews “Talkline” Wednesday she was never close to supporting the bill because of its handling of Medicaid.
Justice said under the Senate plan, fewer people would have access to addiction treatment programs.
“As the debate moves forward, I hope you and your colleagues will consider the fact that it only makes it harder to combat the drug problem that’s ravaging West Virginia,” the governor wrote.
There were a few differences in the letters; Justice said in the Manchin letter “it takes great leadership to put politics aside and do what’s right for so many people who stand to lose essential health services in West Virginia.” He also includes a paragraph noting his appreciation for Manchin’s “steadfast approach” in protecting the state.
In the Capito letter, the mentioning of putting politics aside and the section on approach are absent.
Justice also called out the West Virginia Legislature in both letters. According to Justice, lawmakers cut $54 million from Medicaid and replaced it with “voodoo, one-time money” in the next fiscal year’s budget. Medicaid spending next year is kept even through transferring funds.
“Our state Legislature refused to listen to my repeated warnings about slashing the state’s Medicaid budget and their recent actions could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” he noted.
“I want you to know that the budget passed by our House of Delegates and state Senate hurt many of our people and left a giant Medicaid hole. The hole will get deeper and darker if the federal government reduces Medicaid funding to the states.”
The West Virginia Division of Health and Human Resources said on Twitter Monday more than 172,000 people are enrolled in the Medicaid expansion.
Senate Republicans have set Friday as the deadline for submitting a revised version of the health care plan so the CBO can analyze it while federal lawmakers are in recess.