- Associated Press - Thursday, June 22, 2017

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia Republican U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said Thursday she’s evaluating the Senate Republican leadership’s proposed health care overhaul and its effect on West Virginians.

The draft legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act has been posted it on her website for constituents to read.

Meanwhile, West Virginia’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin said he can’t support the bill, that from his initial review, it makes severe Medicaid cuts, raises costs for seniors, denies coverage access to people who desperately need drug treatment and gives a tax break to the wealthy.

Capito has been the subject of a media campaign in West Virginia urging residents to call her office advocating that she support continuing medical coverage for thousands of people who gained it under the current law.

She said on Thursday she’ll examine the Senate proposal “using several factors to evaluate whether it provides access to affordable health care for West Virginians.”

Those factors include people covered by the Medicaid expansion that West Virginia implemented under so-called “Obamacare” that the new legislation would replace, as well as people struggling with drug addiction, Capito said.

Last year about 100,000 low-income West Virginia residents with Medicaid coverage had drug abuse diagnoses, according to state health officials. About 50,000 were covered under the expansion at a cost of $113 million.

The Senate bill would phase out extra money Obama’s law provides to 31 states that agreed to expand coverage under the federal-state Medicaid program. The additional funds would continue through 2020, then gradually fall and disappear entirely in 2024.

The Department of Health and Human Resources has said it would not be able to pay for the coverage expansion without the higher federal matching funds. Under the existing law, the federal government pays 90 percent of the expansion cost through 2020.

President Trump and many members of the Republican-controlled Congress have promised to repeal former Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature health care program. They criticized provisions that raised taxes on businesses and some families, limited options and rising premiums in the government-supported marketplaces for private insurance, and penalties for people not buying coverage.

The House has passed a different replacement bill. The Congressional Budget Office concluded it would cost 23 million Americans health coverage by 2026. The office is expected to issue its report on the Senate draft next week.

Manchin criticized that measure, saying up to 2.8 million Americans with drug addictions would lose some or all of their insurance. “Based on my initial review, the health care bill released by Republican Leadership today appears to be as bad of a deal for West Virginia as the House bill. … It also gives a tax break to 11,000 of the wealthiest West Virginians without doing anything for the other 920,000 taxpayers.”

The state had the nation’s highest drug overdose death rate, with 41.5 deaths per 100,000 people in 2015. State health officials reported recently that overdose deaths rose nearly 18 percent last year, killing 864 people.

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