June 20, 2017

Joe Manchin: Republican ACA repeal will hurt West Virginians | Charleston Gazette-Mail

Last month, the House of Representatives passed a health care bill after only one legislative hearing, without knowing how much the proposal would cost the American people, without knowing how many people would lose their insurance coverage, and without any feedback from Democrats in the House.

We now know that this bill will deliver $661 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans while cutting critically important health care services for the poorest among us. This is unacceptable, plain and simple.

It is contrary to everything I was taught growing up in West Virginia. And now we know that the Congressional Budget Office estimates the House bill will result in 14 million people losing health care coverage next year, will cut $834 billion from Medicaid and significantly reduce the critical subsidies that tens of thousands of West Virginians count on and, ultimately, reduce health care access for thousands more. This is a bad bill for West Virginia, and it was made worse because, in the rush to pass it, House leadership skipped the hard work of writing our laws and put politics ahead of policy.

I was not your U.S. senator when the Senate passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, but I will be the first to admit that the process wasn’t perfect and improvements to the law are needed. However, before it passed, there were 25 consecutive days of debate on the Senate floor. And before that, there were 47 bipartisan Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearings that resulted in 300 committee amendments, 160 of which were co-sponsored by Republican senators. There were 53 Finance Committee hearings and a 7-day markup of the bill that resulted in 11 Republican amendments being adopted.

Obamacare is not without its flaws, and it only passed the House and Senate with Democrat support. That is not how we should pass any major piece of legislation, and it’s a glaring example of what is wrong in Washington. To date, the Senate HELP and Finance Committees, under Republican control, have held zero hearings on the proposed health care plan. There have been zero days of debate, and zero days marking up this legislation.

We cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater and go back to a time before the ACA, when West Virginia families were one illness away from bankruptcy. Every member of Congress must come together to find a solution that does not including ripping health care coverage away from the seniors and low-income families that need our help the most.

I have always said I would be the first in line to repair the ACA, if it benefited West Virginians, and I stand ready to do that still today. I know there are ways to fix the ACA, and I know we could make those improvements, if we could just all sit down together. At the same time, I cannot support the House plan, which would leave thousands of West Virginians with less access to health care, and I have yet to even see the Senate plan. That’s why I’m particularly troubled by the way Republican leadership is conducting business right now.

I have introduced legislation to improve the ACA and stand ready to work with my Republican colleagues, if they want to improve the ACA to ensure health care access for every American. We must learn from our past mistakes and prioritize the American people over political party. We should conduct hearings, offer amendments and open this legislation to debate on the Senate floor. The American people should have a voice. West Virginians should have a voice. The health care access available to thousands of West Virginians is too important for anything less.

Manchin is West Virginia’s senior U.S. senator.