Community groups across the state held several town-hall style events focused on changes to America’s health care system during the past week. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., attended four of the events and was the only member of West Virginia’s congressional delegation to do so.
Manchin has come under fire from Democrats for his votes to confirm some of President Donald Trump’s cabinet picks. Manchin has also been vocal about his opposition to repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and to the House Republican plan that could replace the ACA.
“The Affordable Care Act right now, for the first time, people with mental disorders, people that are basically are addicted are getting help now and we’re paying for it. Never did before,” Manchin told a crowd Saturday, March 18, at the Morgantown Event Center. “[Republicans] are going to take that away immediately. We’re back to square one. That’s why we’re fighting this so hard.”
Mary Ann Claytor is a patient advocate who ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for West Virginia Auditor in 2016. She spoke during Saturday’s town hall, saying she would only support Manchin in the 2018 mid-term election if he continues to fight for the ACA.
“I will support you, if you support us. I will go out and fight for you to be re-elected, if you do what you promised all of us to do,” she said.
Several other people shared their health care experiences under the ACA, urging Senator Manchin and other lawmakers to make sure West Virginians don’t get shut out as new laws are written, especially when it comes to addiction treatment.
Manchin also answered questions from the audience. While he largely agreed with the speakers’ sentiments, he did draw boos on his opposition to recreational marijuana and his votes for some of President Trump’s cabinet nominees, especially Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The discussion returned to health care in the end, with Manchin saying he has a simple message for President Trump.
“Don’t repeal the Affordable Care Act. Fix it,” Manchin said.
Organizers of Saturday’s town hall meeting said they invited the region’s other members of Congress, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Rep. David McKinley, both R-W.Va., but they declined the invitation.