Protest on US Senate health care bill held outside Capito’s Charleston office

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Protesters gathered outside the Charleston office of U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Monday to urge her to vote against the Senate Republican health care bill.

Around 75 people chanted and held signs, while six others went inside Capito’s office at the United Bank Building. Those individuals were later arrested and charged with trespassing.

The rally was organized by West Virginia Citizen Action Group, Rise Up West Virginia and Kanawha Valley Democratic Socialists of America.

All of this happened while the Congressional Budget Office released its report on the legislation, saying 22 million more Americans would be uninsured by 2026 compared to if the current health care system remained in place. More than $770 million would be taken out of Medicaid through the reduction of federal matching grants and a move to per-capita payments for coverage.

According to a May report from the agency, the House of Representative’s health care legislation would leave 23 million more people uncovered than if former President Barack Obama’s health care law remained untouched.

West Virginia Citizen Action Group executive director Gary Zuckett said no matter the proposal, neither one will improve health care access.

“It’s a little like lipstick on a pig,” Zuckett said of the Senate plan. “In West Virginia, we have experienced a huge increase in people covered under the Affordable Care Act, especially through the Medicaid expansion, and that is one of the things that will go away if the Senate bill is passed.”

The West Virginia Division of Health and Human Resources tweeted Monday more than 172,000 people have health care coverage as the result of the program’s growth.

According to the CBO, the Senate legislation would cause 15 million people to lose coverage next year and 49 million people total by 2026. It would also reduce the deficit by $321 billion with the cut to Medicaid resulting in the largest amount of savings.

The Joint Committee on Taxation said in the report revenues are estimated to decrease $563 billion over the next nine years.

Capito’s spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment following the CBO report. She said last week she is reviewing the draft legislation, but that version was changed and then considered by the CBO.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who opposed the legislation prior to the analysis, said in a statement he still won’t support the Republican bill.

“I have said from the beginning that I want to be a partner in making healthcare more affordable and accessible for our state,” he said. “I stand ready to work with anyone to do that, but this bill makes things worse not better.”

Manchin also posted on Twitter he had received more than 4,200 letters and 900 asking him to vote against the plan.

The White House issued a statement against the report, calling the CBO out for its estimates of “Obamacare.”

“In 2013, the CBO estimated that 24 million people would have coverage under Obamacare by 2016,” the White House said of the nonpartisan agency. “It was off by an astounding 13 million people — more than half — as less than 11 million were actually covered.”

While most of the Charleston protesters were outside of the building containing Capito’s office, six people were in the office’s lobby.

“Senator Capito, whose side are you on?” their sign read. “Vote No on AHCA. Yes to Healthcare for ALL. Stop playing politics with our lives!”

The building is private property. According to a Facebook video from Rise Up West Virginia, the Charleston police officers at the scene requested the people to leave prior to the arrests.

“The city is in a bad position here,” Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said in a comment. “We wish they would leave. Respectfully.”

The protesters are scheduled to appear in Charleston Municipal Court on Aug. 9.

A plane also flew over Charleston, and was supposed to carry a banner reading: “SEN CAPITO: TRUMPCARE HURTS WV FAMILIES.”

However, the banner that was behind the aircraft was directed to Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, one of Capito’s Republican colleagues. Heller said Friday he would not support the bill in its current form.

Monday marked the second day of advocacy in West Virginia’s capital city on health care; Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and other organizations participated in a rally Sunday at the Charleston Municipal Auditorium urging Capito to vote against the Senate bill.

Mountaineers for Progress, a Morgantown-based group, is scheduled to hold two rallies outside of Capito’s Morgantown office later this week.

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