Nancy Tyler, Charleston
About a year ago, the House of Representatives passed the so-called “American Health Care Act,” or AHCA. The health care repeal bill would have cut coverage, increased costs, and eliminated protections for tens of thousands of West Virginians. The bill also would have imposed an “age tax,” letting insurers charge people over 50 five times more for coverage, and put the health of one in five Americans on Medicaid in jeopardy.
Thankfully, similar versions of the AHCA failed to pass in the Senate. But as we recall the one-year anniversary of House Republicans’ attempts to dismantle health care for millions, it’s worth reminding ourselves just how much the bill would have devastated West Virginia.
The AHCA would have stripped health care coverage from a whopping 122,800 West Virginians. For those who might have been able to retain their health care coverage, the AHCA would have raised premiums by double digits.
Though a large portion of West Virginians stood to lose in some way, our state’s most vulnerable were the ones under the greatest threat. Astonishingly, the AHCA would have allowed states to eliminate provisions that prevent insurers from charging more to people with pre-existing conditions. That means the 800,000 West Virginians who have a pre-existing condition could have been charged exorbitantly higher prices.
Furthermore, the bill would have allowed states to opt out from the requirement that all insurers provide a set of 10 essential health benefits, including maternity care and mental and behavioral health.
The AHCA also tried to impose what AARP called an “age tax” on older Americans, letting insurers charge people over the age of 50 up to five times more.
Aside from harming the health of the citizens who help West Virginia prosper, the state budget also stood to take a massive hit under the AHCA. Medicaid cuts included in the bill would have shifted $4 billion in costs to West Virginia. The AHCA was more than just an attack on our health care; it was a direct threat to the economic well-being of our state.
As we remember the devastation that we escaped thanks to the Senate striking down the House’s AHCA, we must recommit ourselves to fighting for our health care, holding our representatives in Congress accountable, and, come November, voting out of office those who put politics and big donors before us — their constituents.