WASHINGTON — As West Virginia’s Democratic senator continued opposing the health care bill being pushed by some of his colleagues, the state’s Republican senator came out Tuesday against the legislation.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he is still against repealing and replacing former President Barack Obama’s health care law, while Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said she could not vote for the bill.
The Senate proposal would begin phasing out Medicaid expansion in 2021, with deeper cuts compared to the bill passed by the House of Representatives in May.
More than 172,000 West Virginians have health care coverage through Medicaid expansion, according to the West Virginia Division of Health and Human Resources.
Under the Senate plan, older individuals could pay up to five times as much for coverage compared to younger people, and companies would not be required to pay for medical coverage for “essential health benefits” like maternity care. States would also have access to $2 billion worth of grants for opioid addiction treatment.
Manchin participated in a press conference Tuesday morning with seven Democratic senators to highlight the bill’s impact on the opioid epidemic.
One of the people who spoke at that press conference was a woman named Shelby from Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. She talked about she was able to receive drug addiction treatment because of Medicaid.
“Without Medicaid, I would be dead,” she said through tears. “A year ago on Memorial Day, I decided I didn’t want to live the life I was living through using opioids. It was a dark hole, and I didn’t know any other way to get out of it.”
Shelby said her mother was able to help her enter a treatment program after three years of drug misuse.
“To think that there was an out,” she said. “It was like someone handing their hand out to me and pulling me out of the hole.”
— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) June 27, 2017
Manchin told reporters afterward Shelby was not the only speaker who raised concerns about the Senate Republican proposal, especially if Medicaid expansion is halted.
“They said, ‘What happens is the same people who never had any coverage before go back to the way of life which they had no protection, no health care except for the emergency room,'” Manchin said.
“And we’re back to square one.”
Manchin said not a single Democratic senator believes the current health care system is perfect
“There’s many of us that believe that repealing it is not repairing it,” he said.
Manchin first voiced his opposition against Senate plan on June 22, the day the legislative draft was released.
Capito said in a release she came to Washington to explore how to make health care more available and less expensive.
“In West Virginia, Obamacare has led to skyrocketing premiums, co-pays and deductibles for families and small businesses,” she said. “Patients have fewer choices in doctors and hospitals as networks shrink and plans become more restrictive.”
Capito noted West Virginia benefited greatly from Medicaid expansion, resulting in increased coverage and access to facilities.
“As drafted, this bill will not ensure access to affordable health care in West Virginia, does not do enough to combat the opioid epidemic that is devastating my state, cuts traditional Medicaid too deeply, and harms rural health care providers,” she argued.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced the delayed vote around 1:45 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. Capito’s office released a joint statement with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, after 3:50 p.m.
President Donald Trump met with Republican senators later Tuesday afternoon.
“With ZERO Democrats to help, and a failed, expensive and dangerous ObamaCare as the Dems legacy, the Republican Senators are working hard!” the president said later on Twitter.
With ZERO Democrats to help, and a failed, expensive and dangerous ObamaCare as the Dems legacy, the Republican Senators are working hard!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 27, 2017
The Congressional Budget Office said in its report Monday 22 million more Americans would lose their insurance by 2026 under the Senate plan compared to if the current health care system remained intact. The federal deficit would decrease by $321 billion as the result of a $772 billion cut to Medicaid.