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Editorial: W.Va. is success story in health care expansion

President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act is a superb success in West Virginia, according to new reports.

A total of 132,556 lower-income West Virginians have gained coverage through the Medicaid expansion approved by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. An additional 25,856 were able to enroll in subsidized private insurance plans. And about 18,000 young adults were allowed to remain covered by their parents’ policies until age 26.

That’s more than 176,000 Mountain State people who gained the ability to visit a doctor, get prescriptions filled or receive hospital care. Hurrah. It’s a big advance for compassion and humane values. Everyone should have access to medical treatment, and nobody should be left out.

A personal finance website, Wallet Hub, says West Virginia now is among America’s top states in ACA success. It says 17 percent of state residents formerly had no health insurance, but now the rate has dropped to 6.6 percent. And the improvement was gained with only slight state taxpayer cost.

Perry Bryant of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care commented:

“To zoom up to the sixth-lowest percentage of uninsured residents in the country is a phenomenal accomplishment, one that you never would have anticipated four years ago when the Affordable Care Act was passed.”

He praised the state Department of Health and Human Resources for creating a “fast track” postal enrollment system that quickly gave Medicaid to than 70,000 West Virginians, saving taxpayers an estimated $270,000 in administrative expense. Well done.

Bryant also said the rate of charity care and bad debts at Charleston Area Medical Center has fallen a stunning $111 million per year. Now, a mere 1 percent of CAMC bills are uncollectible. The hospital’s financial stability has become more solid.

All this raises a grim question: What about West Virginia Republican leaders —Rep. Shelley Capito, Rep. David McKinley, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, etc. — who vowed to repeal the ACA? Will they still try to destroy it? Or will they turn silent and hope that voters don’t remember their opposition?

Also, what about GOP leaders in two dozen states who still refuse to expand Medicaid? Their cruelty is increasingly obvious. Will they capitulate?

Finally, why do many rural West Virginians vote Republican in national races, supporting the party that serves the rich and tries to slash the safety net for average families? Success of the Democratic health reform in West Virginia shows clearly which party serves working people.

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