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How Has Obamacare Worked Out For WV?

Julie Schleier of Parkersburg says Obamacare may have saved her life. (Dan Heyman)
Julie Schleier of Parkersburg says Obamacare may have saved her life. (Dan Heyman)
March 29, 2018

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Eight years after its passage, some West Virginia patients are crediting the Affordable Care Act with saving their lives and keeping their families from financial ruin.

Julie Schleier of Parkersburg said she and her husband lost their insurance because his employer was going out of business in late 2013 - just as she began suffering from a serious autoimmune disease. She said they signed up through the exchange as soon as they could - because going without insurance would have been bad for her financial and physical health.

"It could have been fatal for me,” Schleier said. "And we had savings, we have a house, we have things that we've worked really hard for, but we could have lost all of that, as people were doing back then. It could have been horrible."

Estimates based on research by the Institute of Medicine are that before Obamacare, West Virginia had 270 premature deaths a year and thousands of bankruptcies. Now, according to West Virginians for Affordable Healthcare, the population without health coverage is as low as it's ever been.

The law remains controversial, although it's probably as popular now as ever. Many Congressional Republicans say they're still against government expansion into health care, but for the present they've given up on trying to repeal and replace the ACA.

Some of them now say they expect Obamacare to implode because of rising premiums and consumers leaving. But Schleier said the cost increases are no different than what they would see outside of the exchange.

"People can say what they want to about the ACA, but it's been great for us,” she said. “We have seen the premiums go up, but it's better than not having health insurance."

Obamacare supporters say they now worry about moves that undermine the law at the federal level - and cuts to the Medicaid budget at the state level.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV