Critics Say American Health Care Act Will Harm Rural America

May 16, 2017

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act – a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. All three of West Virginia’s representatives supported the bill, but ACA supporters, including the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, are concerned the bill will harm rural Americans.

“Medicaid coverage sharply reduces people’s risk of medical bankruptcy. Historically that’s been a significant concern for many families and small businesses in rural communities,” said Mary Wakefield – former acting deputy secretary for the department of health and human services.

“And in the many communities that have been ravaged by the opioid crisis – the ACA - especially the Medicaid expansion - has helped, and is continuing to help, many people get the treatment they need,” she said. 

But supporters of the bill, including Rep. David McKinley, say the proposed legislation will fix problems with the ACA such as skyrocketing premiums.

“I know it was well intended, I can’t disagree with that, but over a period of time it’s starting to collapse…so we’ve got to correct it,” said McKinley in an interview with West Virginia Public Broadcasting last week. “We’ve got to make the changes to it so that people can have their insurance and not have these skyrocketing premiums and deductibles.”

The proposed bill will largely benefit middle to high income people without preexisting medical conditions, some of whom have seen skyrocketing premiums in recent years.

Losers include the elderly, sick and poor – as many states are expected to roll back their Medicaid expansion programs under the new bill. Such rollbacks would likely disproportionately affect poor, rural states like West Virginia. McKinley, however, said these concerns are overblown. 

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.