- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 27, 2017

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia’s Republican U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito announced Tuesday that she can’t support the Senate’s health care overhaul after Republican leaders postponed a vote until at least next month.

She said the bill as currently drafted by GOP leaders won’t ensure access to affordable health care in West Virginia, doesn’t do enough to fight the opioid epidemic, cuts traditional Medicaid too deeply and harms rural health care providers.

“I have studied the draft legislation and Congressional Budget Office analysis to understand its impact on West Virginians,” Capito said in a statement. “As drafted, the Senate health care bill is not the right fix for West Virginia, and I cannot support it. My concerns will need to be addressed going forward.”

Because West Virginia decided to expand coverage through Medicaid under former President Barack Obama’s health care law, many people in the state have come to rely on the health coverage and access to substance abuse treatment it provides, even as others with private insurance face skyrocketing premiums and deductibles, she said.

GOP leaders need nearly every Republican Senator to pass the proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which was Obama’s signature program.

Instead, they postponed the vote because they didn’t have enough votes to begin debate. West Virginia’s Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, along with other Democrats in the Senate minority, are uniformly opposed.

Manchin said Tuesday that many of the most vulnerable people would lose their coverage if it passes. He called for action in Congress to fix the private insurance markets and teach people in the Medicaid expansion to use their new health care more efficiently.

Instead, Manchin said, the Trump administration is holding back on promising about $7 billion of cost-sharing intended to stabilize the private market in the insurance exchanges so insurance companies can’t count on them when putting together their 2018 rates.

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 authorized by Obamacare at a cost of $113 million. Some 90 percent of that is paid by the federal government.

The Senate bill would phase out that 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. State health officials say West Virginia can’t afford it without the federal money.

Six people were arrested at Capito’s Charleston office Monday after vowing to stay until she promised to vote against the Senate bill. Organizers of that sit-in and the rally by about 70 of its supporters outside said the six were charged with trespassing and released.


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