BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — West Virginians are hoping that Sen. Shelley Moore Capito keeps the Mountain State’s citizens in mind when voting on a new health care bill later this week.
Residents from all over the state traveled to Washington, D.C. Tuesday to ask Sen. Capito vote “no” to the ACA repeal. At least 50 individuals were aboard the bus that made stops in Parkersburg and Clarksburg, as well as Hagerstown, Maryland.
Brad Heflin with the West Virginia Alliance for Health Care Security said that most of the contingent also attended a trip in July to ask the Senator to reject the first incarnation of the repeal bill.
“Sen. Capito had not made up her mind when we went to Washington on the last trip, and after that, I think we had some influence on her to get her to reject the repeal and not replace version of the health care bill,” Heflin said. “She did eventually vote for what’s called the ‘skinny repeal.’
“We’re here again today to let her know that this bill is worse than the one that she rejected when we met with her previoiusly in July and that she should stand up and stand with West Virginians and their health care,” he said.
Julia Schleier of Parkersburg was a part of July’s trip to the Capitol, and she chose to go back because she is disappointed in Sen. Capito’s vote.
“I was disappointed in how she voted after promising us that she did not go to D.C. to harm us,” Schleier said. “I thought we had made an impact because we were also with the Rev. Janice Hill, and that video went viral.
“But I guess we didn’t make that much of an impact, so we’re going back today to say, ‘Hey, what happened,” she said.
Schleier has a rare autoimmune disease that requires her to take a biologic every day, and she said the Affordable Care Act made it possible for her to get health insurance to cover the costs.
“I can participate in a drug support program as long as I have insurance, and the drug company will pay whatever the insurance company doesn’t, so it helps me control this autoimmune disease that I have,” she said. “So it’s very important to me that they don’t kill the ACA.”
Having an illness is enough stress for anyone, without having the added frustration of questionable health insurance, Schleier said.
“You know, I’m fighting this autoimmune disease where my body is attacking me and then on top of that I feel like I have to fight daily for health care, living in the United States of America,” she said. “What’s wrong with that picture?”
Parkersburg resident Kim Kramer participated in the event to help assure that herself and her loved ones wouldn’t find themselves in similar positions.
“Health care is just an incredibly important issue to everybody in this country, and our right to access to health care is really at risk right now, including my family’s, my community’s, the country’s, and we need to speak out.”
Kramer works in a Medicaid program and says she hopes her efforts will help benefit those patients, as well as her own family.
“You know, this is a human right; this is health care; this is a very stressful issue,” she said. “I think everybody here and probably everybody that I know has some type of a health care story or scare. This is a big deal. This is not a game that’s going on here.”
Emily Thompson and Alisa Clements joined the trip for the second time on behalf of their jobs with Planned Parenthood South Atlantic in Vienna.
“We’re here to try to protect it because that is somewhere that people go,” Clements said. “People choose to go to Planned Parenthood because we are safe and reliable. They feel like they get quality care there.
“We’ve done this for Sen. (Joe) Manchin as well,” she said. “We were able to gain his support for Planned Parenthood, so hopefully we can show Sen. Capito the same thing, that people trust Planned Parenthood.”
Thompson said she feels the in-person trips are worthwhile and the best way to take action in these types of situations.
“Face to face meetings and giving our senators the opportunity to speak with constituents and hear their stories are the most effective,” she said. “They can read reports and hear statistics all day, but until they hear the stories from their constituents and hear first-hand how they’ll be impacted, they don’t really know how devastating it will be to our state.”
In addition to those traveling to D.C., the group is also delivering hundreds of petitions and patients’ stories to represent those unable to make the trip.
“The petitions, the patients stories and that kind of stuff, that’s part of our every day jobs because we’re trying to build support for Planned Parenthood in West Virginia,” Clements said.
Thompson said repealing ACA would be a large disservice to the citizens of West Virginia.
“I would want the bill to be completely scrapped, and we start working on a bipartisian effort to improve the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “There is no part of this bill that will help Americans, especially West Virginians.”
“Something that’s very concerning for me as a woman is the fact that this bill basically makes being a woman a pre-existing condition,” she said.
Clements said not only does the bill cut birth control, but it also does not provide help to women who have been pregnant.
“My best friend just gave birth, and I can’t imagine a situation where if I have a child, that would mean that I would not be able to be insured potentially, and I think that’s incredibly detrimental to so many of our population,” she said.
Schleier said many other countries have far better health care than the U.S., but yet those in Washington, D.C. don’t seem to want to correct that.
“It’s annoying, it’s frustrating, and I just don’t understand why these senators right now are more concerned about their donors than they are the health of Americans,” she said. “How do they sleep at night? I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.”
Heflin said there is a variety of aspects that make this bill more damaging to West Virginians, including the fact that the Congressional Budget Office has not yet scored the legislation, meaning that their has been no governmental analysis of the legislation’s impact.
“Avalere, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities and other groups have done studies on this legislation, however, and find that unlike previous repeal bills, there is no money set aside for opioid treatment.
Heflin added that repealing the ACA would not only increase premiums for those in the insurance marketplace but also end the Medicaid expansion that helped 180,000 gain access to health care.
“And we see patients every day who benefit from that expansion, and to think that they wouldn’t be able to get care anymore is really heartbreaking,” Clements said. “We’re not a wealthy state, and we stand to lose a lot of money that we cannot afford.”