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WVU Experts Detail Potential Negative Impact of Obamacare Repeal on West Virginia

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Since the new American Health care Act was unveiled as a replacement for Obamacare, we’re learning more about the impact it could have on West Virginians.

Several lawmakers from both sides have already come out in support of or voiced their concerns against the proposed legislation, including Senator Shelley Moore Capito, because a large focus of the American Health Care Act is Medicaid, a program that’s been beneficial for many West Virginians.

"The legislation is quite problematic," said Simon Haeder, and Assistant Professor at West Virginia University’s John D. Rockefeller School of Policy and Politics.

Approximately 30,000 people who pay for their own insurance from the individual market will be affected by the changes. 180,000 to 200,000 people who received healthcare through the Medicaid expansion will lose coverage and 600,000 others will be affected by the overall changes to Medicaid.

"It would evolve the program from one where the federal government has made an open-ended commitment to providing healthcare for America's poorest individuals in terms of providing matching payments to states, to one where the federal government would basically cap the amount of money it was willing to spend,” Haeder explained. “ Once that ceiling is reached, the states wouldn't get any more money from the federal government, so the states would have to come up with money on their own which might be challenging in a state like West Virginia."

Or reduce the number of people who receive benefits and Medicaid.

The repeal of 2013’s Medicaid expansion would affect the state's work in combating the opioid epidemic. 

"Under the Medicaid expansion we've had about 20,000 individuals in the state of West Virginia alone that gained access to addiction treatment,” said Haeder.  “That's almost double the number of individuals who had previously been in treatment."

For people select their own coverage from the individual market, instead of paying only part of the cost after the government takes care of the other part, all of the money must be paid upfront, then claimed on taxes for a refund.

"The refund in West Virginia would be significantly smaller than what individuals are currently getting,” Haeder said. “The latest I saw is that the average cost for a West Virginian that has to get insurance through the marketplace would rise by over $4,000."

Haeder says another problem for West Virginia is many who would lose Medicaid coverage, can’t pay the upfront cost for a healthcare plan, so they’d be without insurance.

While Haeder and others have expressed their opinions on why repealing the Affordable Care Act would be harmful to the state’s residents, members of the Congressional delegation, like Representative David McKinley have a different opinion in support of replacing the Affordable Care Act with the American Health Care Act.

We’ll hear from Congressman McKinley early next week. 

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