By Sen. Joe Manchin
When people ask why I voted against repealing the healthcare law, I always say it’s because we need to make sure those with pre-existing conditions don’t go bankrupt paying for basic healthcare. I believe that every West Virginian deserves access to quality, affordable healthcare. I have always said that our nation’s current healthcare system is in need of repair but I am very concerned our country is at risk of moving backward instead of forward.
Right now 20 U.S. Attorneys General, including the Attorney General of West Virginia, are suing to allow insurance companies to once again deny coverage to West Virginians with pre-existing conditions.
This impacts every family in West Virginia. More than 800,000 West Virginians have a pre-existing condition, including 90,600 children. Illnesses like Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease are only some of a very long list that are considered a pre-existing condition. But did you know that if you are a woman in West Virginia and get pregnant, you are at risk of losing your healthcare. If you have arthritis, you are at risk of losing your healthcare. If you have asthma, you are at risk of losing your healthcare. If you have anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder, you are at risk of losing your healthcare. It is important for everyone to have health insurance because your health can change in a blink of an eye and West Virginians with preexisting conditions like these are the ones that need health insurance the most.
What’s happening today is an unfortunate political move. Republicans in Congress have tried to repeal the healthcare law more than 50 times without once voting in a bipartisan way to preserve the good parts of the law, such as protections for the 800,000 West Virginians who, for now, can’t be denied coverage by insurance companies.
What makes this worse is we have two bipartisan compromises, which I have cosponsored, one led by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) and another one led by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bill Nelson (D-FL). These bills include important steps that will help reduce healthcare costs for West Virginia families, and this agreement shows what is possible when we put people before politics. It’s shameful that Congressional Republicans refuse to bring that bill up for a vote. Now that the recently passed tax law destabilized the healthcare markets, it is more important than ever that we act on this bipartisan fix before health care premiums spike for West Virginia families.
On Monday, I asked West Virginians to share their stories with me and my office has been flooded with stories. I heard from Katelyn in Elkview who has a pre-existing condition that could be used against her to take away her healthcare coverage.
She told me, “I am a 22 year old West Virginian who grew up in northern Kanawha County near Clendenin. I was diagnosed with anorexia when I was 13, and have struggled with it for years. I am thankful that the ACA created provisions that will allow me to remain on my parents’ health insurance until I am 26, but worry that my pre-existing condition could prevent me from getting insured in the future. Losing health insurance would mean me losing access to my mental health medication, as well as making it really difficult to access further treatment should I have a relapse. I also worry about how lack of coverage for my preexisting condition could prevent me from affording care in the future – I hope to devote my life to public service, which is very fulfilling but does not pay well enough for me to afford to pay high medical bills. This is something that particularly worries me as I get older and am thinking about whether I will be able to afford to start a family. I hope that you will continue to defend the Affordable Care Act, particularly its provisions that protect people with pre-existing conditions and women’s health generally.”
West Virginians agree that we cannot go back to a time when insurance companies played God and decided who was insured and who was not. For a lot of West Virginians with pre-existing conditions, insurance coverage is the difference between life and death.
West Virginians wishing to send me their stories, please send them to email@example.com.