Learn more before judging health bill
It is no wonder that Gov. Jim Justice and U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin have expressed concern about the impact on West Virginia of a plan to replace Obamacare. They worry it may leave as many as one in 10 residents of the state without health insurance.
A bill introduced this week in the House of Representatives would overhaul the current national health insurance program dramatically. One aspect of it, Medicaid, already is drawing fire.
Capito, R-W.Va., is among senators who have notified Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., of their concerns. Manchin, D-W.Va., previously had expressed serious reservations about any reform bill affecting West Virginians on Medicaid.
And on Tuesday, Justice singled out Mountain State residents who were enrolled in Medicaid because of Obamacare’s expansion of that program. No action by Congress that would “leave them out in the cold” is acceptable, he said.
Expansion of Medicaid added between 14 million and 16 million people to the program’s rolls. That brings the total of Americans who rely on Medicaid to 73.4 million — not far from one-fourth of the U.S. population.
Here in West Virginia, Medicaid’s impact is much greater. About 510,200 of the state’s approximately 1.8 million people receive Medicaid benefits.
Of that total, about 180,500 were added by the Obamacare expansion, for which the federal government pays nearly the entire cost.
Clearly, the governor and senators fear that limits on Medicaid contained in the House bill could jerk the health insurance rug out from under one-tenth of the state’s residents.
It may not come to that, however. According to published reports, the House bill would continue current levels of Medicaid funding until the end of 2019. Even after that, states could continue to receive about the same level of support they get now for people enrolled then in Medicaid.
Federal support for the program would be decreased only for new enrollees.
In other words, the state would continue to receive federal subsidies for those now on Medicaid.
That makes the outlook much less grim.
Still, Justice and the senators are right to be concerned. Justice already has said state officials are analyzing the House bill for more specifics. State officials and members of Congress should withhold judgment until they know more about the proposal.