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Advocates to rally against ACA repeal

In this Oct. 24, 2016, file photo, the HealthCare.gov 2017 web site home page as seen in Washington. One by one, key health care industry groups are telling the incoming Republican administration and Congress that it’s not a good idea to repeal the 2010 health care law without clear plans to address the consequences. The West Virginia Citizens Action Group is joining moveon.org, Health Care for America Now and other advocates for “No Repeal without Replace” rallies outside Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito’s Charleston, Morgantown and Martinsburg offices.

Proponents of the Affordable Care Act plan to rally this week outside the local offices of a West Virginia senator who has supported repealing the health care reform law.

West Virginia Citizens Action Group is joining moveon.org, Health Care for America Now and other advocates for “No Repeal without Replace” rallies Tuesday outside Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito’s Charleston, Morgantown and Martinsburg offices. Similar rallies are being held throughout the country.

President-elect Donald Trump has promised to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform law, by which tens of thousands of West Virginians and millions across the country have gained access to health insurance.

GOP leaders have indicated they might repeal the law before coming up with a plan to replace it.

One way they could do that would be through budget reconciliation. That strategy wouldn’t allow them to repeal the entire law, just the parts that have to do with federal funding, according to a report from NPR.

“The problem that we have with doing it this way is they’re not going to replace it,” Gary Zuckett, executive director of West Virginia Citizens Action Group. “They’ll basically cut the funding for it ... the funding will quit, but that does not fix it, does [not] replace it and that puts the whole health care system in limbo.”

House leaders said Thursday that those enrolled in an Affordable Care Act plan would not lose those plans the day that Trump becomes president.

“Republicans will provide an adequate transition period to give people peace of mind that they will have those options available to them as we work through this solution,” said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, according to a report in the New York Times. Brady said the suggestion that 20 million people would lose health insurance if the ACA is repealed is a lie.

Republican leaders have said they would work on a replacement for the ACA, but they’ve had seven years to come up with a plan and they haven’t, Zuckett said.

The Affordable Care Act has had a bigger impact in West Virginia than it has in many other states, Zuckett said.

If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, 184,000 West Virginia residents could lose health insurance coverage, according to projections from the Urban Institute. The state would also lose $14 billion in federal funding between 2019 and 2028, according to the Urban Institute.

Nearly 400,000 West Virginians with pre-existing conditions would also be at risk of losing access to health insurance in the individual market, according to estimates from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to insure those with pre-existing conditions like diabetes, HIV or cancer. Without that requirement, Kaiser estimates that 392,000 people in the state would be ineligible for individual coverage. The estimate does not include the elderly.

Kaiser estimates that nationwide, 27 percent of people have conditions that would make them unable to access insurance on the individual market without the ACA. A large number of them, Kaiser points out, are eligible for coverage through an employer or public coverage. The estimates indicate how many would not be eligible for coverage should they lose their coverage after a job loss or through other means, the report says.

West Virginia’s rural hospitals also depend on money provided through the law, Zuckett said. Some of the hospitals may have to close their doors without the ACA, he said.

“This is a job killer and potentially life-threatening situation,” Zuckett said. “Now that we finally made progress with health insurance coverage in West Virginia, it looks like it’s going to be taken away without anything to replace it.”

Capito, as well as other state Republicans, Reps. Evan Jenkins, David McKinley and Alex Mooney, have supported repealing the law.

Zuckett said the rally will take place outside Capito’s office because they think she may be potentially sympathetic to their message.

The rally is planned for noon to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday outside Capito’s offices. In Charleston, the office is located at 500 Virginia Street East.

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1240 or follow @LoriKerseyWV on Twitter.