More than 100 people gathered outside The Culture Center in Charleston this weekend to ask representatives to save the Affordable Care Act or implement a replacement that doesn’t leave West Virginians without health coverage.
“We have three goals today, they’re very simple goals. We’re here to tell the truth about the Affordable Care Act,” said Stephen Smith – Executive Director of West Virginia Health Kids, Healthy Families coalition who was MCing Saturday’s event.
“Number two, we are here to make two requests: Will you promise not to vote for any bill that sacrifices a single working West Virginia family? Will you promise to hold town halls, face-to-face before voting on any bill?”
The group rallied to ask their representatives, including Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin to vote against Congressional efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Renate Pore of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care was also one of Saturday’s speakers.
“Every West Virginian will be affected by this and their health care will be diminished or taken away,” she said, referring to the first draft of the repeal bill that was leaked late last week.
“This bill would end the Medicaid expansion. 175,000 depending on the Medicaid Expansion would no longer have access to health care.”
But it’s not just about having care. Stephen Smith said the ACA is vital for fighting the opioid epidemic that has seeped into the fabric of West Virginia.
“The Affordable Care Act is the last best defense that we have against substance abuse in West Virginia,” he said.
Right now there are 25,492 West Virginians who have received the Affordable Care Act and are receiving treatment for substance abuse issues, Smith continued, referring to a National Health Law Program report released earlier this week. He urged West Virginians to call their representatives, pointing to hand lettered signs with phone numbers sprinkled around the crowd.
Later speakers included several testimonials from patients who have benefited from the ACA.
Republicans Senator Shelley Moore Capito and Representatives Evan Jenkins, David McKinley and Alex Mooney have previously indicated they want to repeal the law. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has said he wants to fix the parts of the law that don't work instead of repealing it.
There were no counter protesters at the rally.
Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.