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ACA Challenge Threatens Loss of Coverage for Thousands in WV

Medicaid expansion for the Affordable Care Act has helped more West Virginians receive treatment for substance-abuse disorders. (Adobe stock)
Medicaid expansion for the Affordable Care Act has helped more West Virginians receive treatment for substance-abuse disorders. (Adobe stock)
October 5, 2020

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As the Supreme Court gets set to hear another challenge to the Affordable Care Act in November, experts say taking away the federal health insurance plan - especially during a pandemic - will hit West Virginians hard.

The state's attorney general, Patrick Morrisey, is part of the lawsuit that aims to repeal the law, which provides health insurance to more than half a million people in the Mountain State.

Rick Wilson, director of the American Friends Service Committee's West Virginia Economic Justice Project, said striking down the law would pose a major hardship for the state's aging and low-income populations. It could also make its substance abuse crisis even worse.

"People know West Virginia is kind of ground zero for the opioid epidemic, and the ACA has opened up the path to treatment for many, many people," Wilson said. "And there's hard science research that shows that states that have expanded Medicaid have seen a drop in overdose deaths."

He said West Virginia expanded Medicaid in 2014, which provided ACA coverage to more than 160,000 people. That number includes low-income working folks who now make up the essential workforce people are relying on during the coronavirus pandemic.

Wilson said repealing the ACA also would hurt the thousands of West Virginians with pre-existing conditions. And that won't just affect older folks, he said.

"There are around 20,000 young people in the state who are covered by their parents' insurance up to age 26. And that's a part of the ACA," Wilson said. "If the ACA is undone, then, you know, insurance companies could back out of that deal."

According to federal data, after the ACA was passed, the uninsured rate in West Virginia fell from 14% in 2013 to a little over 5% in 2016.

The Supreme Court will hear the Texas-led challenge to the law on November 10, just one week after Election Day.

Disclosure: American Friends Service Committee of West Virginia contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Health Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Diane Bernard, Public News Service - WV