West Virginia Catholic Conference Director Says ‘Dramatic’ Medicaid Cuts Will Hurt State’s Most Vulnerable

By Colleen Rowan of The Catholic Spirit

As the health care debate unfolds in the Senate this week, the Catholic Conference of West Virginia’s director said that “dramatic” cuts to Medicaid would hurt the state’s most vulnerable—children and the poor.

“Bishop Bransfield has been quite clear regarding the need to preserve current Medicaid funding if the vulnerable in our state are to receive effective health care,” Father O’Donnell said in a statement July 26. “Indeed, the entire Bishops’ Conference, Catholic Charities U.S.A, and the Catholic Health Association call upon senators to reject dramatic cuts to Medicaid coverage and respect human life and dignity, especially for those who are most in need.”

On July 25, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) voted to proceed to debate on legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare.

“As this process advances on the Senate floor, I will continue to make decisions that are in the best interest of West Virginians,” Capito said in a July 25 statement. “I remain committed to reforming our health care system while also addressing the concerns I have voiced for months. I will continue to push for policies that result in affordable health care coverage for West Virginians, including those who are in the Medicaid population and those struggling with drug addiction.”

In a July 21 article in The Catholic Spirit newspaper, Father O’Donnell said that the Affordable Care Act has expanded health insurance coverage in the Mountain State. “The immensely complicated ACA is certainly open to criticism,” he said, “but it has had a positive result regarding increased insurance coverage for the poor.”

The largest group of Medicaid enrollees in West Virginia is children, Father O’Donnell noted in the article. Medicaid provides preventive care and treatment to 195,000 children in the state, he also noted.

With the expansion of Medicaid in West Virginia, Father O’Donnell said in the article, the uninsured rate for those 18 to 65 in the state declined to 9 percent by 2015. That same year, he said, the number of uninsured children had declined by 43.7 percent. Catholic Charities West Virginia reports that Medicaid serves more than 546,000 people in the state, a third of the population. Last year alone, 170,000 West Virginians enrolled.

Father O’Donnell encourages West Virginia residents to voice their concerns by calling Sen. Capito’s Washington office at (202) 224-6472 or her Charleston office at (304) 347-5372.

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