Capito, Manchin oppose repealing ACA without replacement plan

Both West Virginia Senators said Tuesday they are not on board with the new tack of repealing the Affordable Care Act without any replacement.

Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito said they will not vote for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s latest plan to pull the plug on the law, also known as Obamacare, and leave two years to transition to an unknown replacement.

A statement released from McConnell’s office does not offer details on what the replacement would entail.

Capito, a Republican, released a statement Tuesday morning after four U.S. senators had already come out against the replacement bill, dooming its chances of a passing vote. She said she does not support McConnell’s idea of repealing without immediately replacing.

“My position on this issue is driven by its impact on West Virginians,” she said. “With that in mind, I cannot vote to repeal Obamacare without a replacement plan that addresses my concerns and the needs of West Virginians.”

In 2015, Capito voted in favor of an Obamacare repeal bill that then-President Barack Obama vetoed. Ashley Berrang, a spokeswoman for Capito, said the senator needs a working replacement before she votes for a repeal, and the most recent versions are not up to snuff.

Berrang also pointed to a 2015 statement from Capito issued after her ACA repeal vote.

“Americans deserve a health care system that works for them, and Obamacare is not it,” she said. “I have consistently voted to repeal and replace this disastrous health care law, and I am glad that a repeal bill will finally reach the president’s desk. This legislation will enable us to revisit the problems caused by Obamacare and replace them with reforms that provide quality, affordable care for all Americans.”

Before news of McConnell’s new plan broke, Berrang said Monday evening that Capito was still considering the Better Care Reconciliation Act — the ACA replacement — although her statement Tuesday suggests she was leaning against it.

“I have serious concerns about how we continue to provide affordable care to those who have benefited from West Virginia’s decision to expand Medicaid, especially in light of the growing opioid crisis,” she said. “All of the Senate health care discussion drafts have failed to address these concerns adequately.”

Along with Capito, Manchin said in a conference call Tuesday that he would not vote in favor of an ACA repeal, but instead is working to build bipartisan consensus around making repairs to pieces of the law.

“I understand that Senator Capito just came out and said that she would oppose repealing, which I’m very, very pleased to hear, and that’s great news, and we’ll see,” he said. “I know, over the years here, since Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, has been in place, Republicans have voted for a total repeal many, many times. I don’t know if they have the 50 votes that they need. Senator Capito and Senator [Susan] Collins said they would not repeal, so they can’t afford to lose another one. I’m hoping for another one or two, that will stop the repeal process, and maybe, eventually, they will sit down and start talking to us.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, The Washington Post reported that Sens. Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, would not get behind the repeal either, casting doubt over its viability.

Manchin said he questions whether a repeal vote will go the distance, and that he’s planning to work with the other senators who used to serve their states as governors to find an approach to reform the ACA with people who are used to working in a bipartisan fashion.

“Maybe we can get them together and find a pathway. We’re going to try anything and everything,” he said. “I’m hoping repeal is taken off the table, because it would be truly devastating for our state and our country if they just went down the repeal, thinking in 24 months they could fix something. They couldn’t even get 50 votes to fix something now.”

He said he had not spoken to Capito yet on the new tactic but that she is invited in on the brainstorming sessions.

Although its successful trek is unlikely, an Obamacare repeal bill could blow a massive hole in coverage rolls, according to analysis by the Congressional Budget Office. In January, it calculated that the repeal would eliminate coverage for 32 million people, who would be insured under Obamacare, by 2026, and premiums would double during that same time.

Staff writer Erin Beck contributed to this report.

Reach Jake Zuckerman at jake.zuckerman@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4814 or follow @jake_zuckerman on Twitter.

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