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For Some West Virginians, Insurance Regulations Mean Freedom

Julie Warden of Charleston, far left, spoke at a press conference supporting the Affordable Care Act last week. (Dan Heyman)
Julie Warden of Charleston, far left, spoke at a press conference supporting the Affordable Care Act last week. (Dan Heyman)
August 13, 2018

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -– For many of the West Virginians with chronic medical conditions, insurance regulation means freedom. But Republicans lawmakers who oppose the Affordable Care Act say Obamacare’s insurance rules limit commercial freedom.

For communications professional Julie Warden of Charleston, freedom depends on having health insurance. Warden was diagnosed with arthritis at age 21. She said without the ACA, she could lose the coverage she needs.

“Something as simple as arthritis - which doesn't seem like it can be that life shattering - when you have someone who's in severe pain, it can absolutely affect their ability to go to work or take care of their kids or do normal, everyday activities,” Warden explained.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey decided the state should join a lawsuit against the ACA led by Texas. The suit argues insurance rules in the health care law are unconstitutional.

Obamacare requires all insurance plans to cover ten basic areas, including emergency care, preventive medicine and prescription drugs. The ACA also mandates insurance companies cannot drop someone for having a pre-existing medical condition or for exceeding an annual or lifetime benefit limit.

Julie Schleier of Parkersburg has a debilitating auto-immune bone disease she keeps at bay with more than $10,000 a month in treatments. She said without health insurance, she would have two choices: bankruptcy or a slow, painful death as the bones in her back fuse together.

“It crushes your ribcage, so it crushes your lungs,” Schleier described. “I would not be able to move my back at all. My head would be looking at my toes, and I would be in excruciating pain all the time.”

Legal experts call the Texas suit a long shot. But Republicans in Congress have said removing the ACA's insurance rules is the only way to keep insurance affordable. By one count, there are three-quarters of a million West Virginians with pre-existing medical conditions.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV