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Analysis released this week found West Virginia could be one the most negatively impacted states in the country if Congress passes the House health care bill to replace the Affordable Care Act. The health policy think tank Kaiser Family Foundation reports reductions in Medicaid or block grant financing would be especially harmful to communities in West Virginia and ten other states.
Congress has been debating the legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act for weeks. In May the House passed a bill called the American Health Care Act. This legislation would, among other things, fundamentally change the structure and funding for Medicaid, including Medicaid expansion.
Right now, Medicaid is a shared state/federal program with no caps on spending. The House bill would do away with that open-ended arrangement and cap federal spending to a set amount based on current state spending patterns. This move would reduce federal spending by about $834 billion from 2017-2026, according to the Congressional Budget Office. As a result, most states would have to make budget decisions about which programs to fund and what to cut.
The Kaiser analysis looked at factors such as whether a state expanded Medicaid, demographics like poverty or age, and state revenue choices for replacing federal funding to determine which states would most likely be impacted. They found that while all states could face challenges making up the funding changes, Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia would likely be most affected.
Supporters of the House health care bill say the change will give states more flexibility to customize state Medicaid programs and better serve local populations. Critics are concerned the move will save the federal government money, but result in lost coverage and decreased access to care.
Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.