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Hard times could be ahead for rural school districts that spent federal pandemic money on teacher salaries, a former Oregon lumber community drafts a climate-action plan and West Virginians may soon buy raw milk from squeaky-clean cows.

Cassidy-Graham Would Cripple WV Opioid Treatment, Medicaid

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Friday, September 22, 2017   

CHARLESTON, W. Va. - The health care bill Senate Republicans are rushing to finish would cripple West Virginia opioid treatment and end Medicaid expansion, according to an analysis that also says the bill could end coverage of pre-exisiting conditions.

Sean O'Leary, senior policy analyst for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, said the last-ditch attempt to get a GOP-only Obamacare repeal though the Senate would cut Medicaid funding so much that the state would have to roll back expansion. In addition, he said, while Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W. Va., negotiated added funding for opioid treatment in previous Affordable Care Act repeal bills, there is none in this legislation.

"There is no extra money for opioids. There's nothing," O'Leary said. "So it could really, really have a devastating impact on the state's battle against opioid addiction."

Supporters of what's known as the Cassidy-Graham bill have said changing Medicaid funding to a block-grant system would give the states flexibility to do more with less. O'Leary said that would be impossible, given the low level of block-grant funding.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Cassidy-Graham would cut $2 billion out of West Virginia Medicaid funding over 10 years.

O'Leary said a state such as West Virginia that already has budget problems couldn't make up for block grants that would be hundreds of millions of dollars below current levels. Then, he said, even those grants would be eliminated - and with it, coverage for the 10 percent of the state's population in Medicaid expansion.

"After 2026, that block grant just goes away and we're on the hook for 100 percent," O'Leary said, "and it would essentially end, and that 180,000 people would just lose their health-care coverage."

O'Leary said the legislation also would allow states to get rid of regulations on insurance companies that require policies to cover a set of essential services outlined in Obamacare. He said that could include the rule that says they couldn't charge more for - or drop folks with - pre-existing conditions.

"And that's a big deal. In West Virginia," he said. "There are about 392,000 people who have some type of pre-existing condition that would be declineable."

The bill's only hearing is set for Monday. Capito, a key vote, has not said if she will support or oppose it.

More information is online at wvpolicy.org.


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