Capito reviewing health care bill with ‘serious concerns’

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After U.S. Senate Republican leaders unveiled the latest version of its health care bill Thursday, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said she is reviewing the measure with “serious concerns to provisions about the Medicaid provisions.”

The latest version of the proposal is similar to the first bill aimed at replacing former President Barack Obama’s health care law; Medicaid expansion would begin being scaled back in 2021. Fixed payments would be given to states to fund insurance for those enrolled in the program.

According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, 168,206 people are enrolled in the state’s Medicaid expansion.

“Any health care bill to replace Obamacare must provide access to affordable health care coverage for West Virginians, including our large Medicaid population and those struggling with drug addiction,” Capito said in a statement.

“I opposed the previous draft because it did not ensure access to affordable health care in West Virginia, did not do enough to combat the opioid epidemic that is devastating my state, cut traditional Medicaid too deeply, and harmed rural health care providers.”

Capito came out against the original Senate proposal June 27, the same day Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced a vote on the legislation would be delayed.

The new bill would allow people to use tax-free health savings accounts for premium payments. Under an amendment proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, insurance companies would also be allowed to sell low-cost plans that do not meet “Obamacare” standards.

States would be provided $70 billion for establishing reforms to drive down premiums. An additional $45 billion would be set aside for treating opioid addiction.

AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond said in a news release the bill would result in higher costs and less coverage

“The proposed cuts would leave millions of Americans, including 17.4 million poor seniors and people with disabilities, at risk of losing the care they need and their ability to live independently in their homes and communities,” LeaMond said.

According to AARP Advocates, 162,000 West Virginians would lose their Medicaid coverage under the Senate health care plan because of a $1.9 billion spending cut.

AARP is one organization that has targeted Capito with advertisements urging people to call her office about the bill’s effects.

AARP was also one of eight groups participating in an advocacy event Thursday morning at Charleston Area Medical Center’s Cancer Center regarding the Senate proposal.

“I think it’s critical for us to take this seriously — very seriously — and at the same time, ensure that not a single person that has insurance today gets in the position where they have to lose that insurance,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, state health officer and commissioner for the Bureau of Public Health.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network released a statement after the bill was unveiled, saying the proposal “would make it harder for those affected by cancer to access affordable and quality health care coverage.”

The Congressional Budget Office said the original Senate health care bill would cut $772 billion from Medicaid and leave 22 million more Americans without insurance compared to if the current health care system remained in place.

The CBO is expected to release a report on the updated bill early next week.

Only two Republican senators could oppose the plan, as Vice President Mike Pence could make a tie-breaking vote if needed. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky said Thursday they do not support the current legislation.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., did not comment on the revised bill. He was opposed to the original Senate Republican health care plan.

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