August 04, 2018

Sen. Joe Manchin, Clergy Discuss Health Insurance Concerns in Wheeling | Wheeling Intelligencer

WHEELING — U.S. Sen Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., met Friday with area faith leaders to hear their concerns about health insurance and to urge their support for continued coverage of pre-existing medical conditions.

The senator convened an hour-long session at Wheeling Hospital that was attended by clergy from Wheeling, Moundsville, Weirton, Chester, Newell and Huntington.

The 16 leaders represented Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Disciples of Christ, Baptist, Jewish and nondenominational congregations.

“Hopefully, you can take the politics out of this important issue more than we can in Congress,” Manchin said to the faith leaders. “This a life and death issue.”

He warned that a pending federal court case, Texas vs. United States, challenges aspects of the Affordable Care Act and could affect coverage for pre-existing conditions. If coverage were to be removed, “you end up putting the most vulnerable people in the greatest risk,” he said.

Manchin said a Kaiser Family Foundation study indicated 302,000 West Virginians would not qualify for insurance and another 408,000 state residents would be subject to evaluation by insurance companies and limitation on coverage if the court rules unfavorably in the current case.

Pointing to a list of 60 pre-existing conditions at risk, the Rev. Katrina Lewis, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Chester, said, “Virtually everyone is on this list … It punishes the people most in need.”

Lewis said members of her congregation cannot afford their medication.

In one woman’s case, the pastor said, “They changed the tiers (of covered drugs) in mid-year and totally took her off that medication.”

The Rev. Ralph Dunkin, a retired Lutheran bishop from Wheeling, spoke of a seminary graduate who worked two part-time jobs but could not get insurance coverage for treatment of bipolar disease.

Dunkin serves as a volunteer with Wheeling Health Right’s farmacy — a program providing “prescriptions” for fresh fruit and vegetables — to people who are on Medicare or have no insurance.

“We’re helping with food, but what are their chances?” he asked.

By:  Linda Comins