Senate President Mitch Carmichael is slated to introduce a bill to prohibit healthcare companies from denying service to people with pre-existing conditions in the event the Affordable Care Act — which currently prohibits such discrimination — is repealed.
The so-called “West Virginia Healthcare Continuity Act” makes West Virginia one of several other states creating back-up plans for the potential ACA-repeal, according to the Commonwealth Fund.
If passed, the legislation would only go into effect if the West Virginia Insurance Commissioner determines a legitimate court has ruled the Affordable Care Act “is unconstitutional and the judgement of that court becomes final and definitive,” according to a drafted version.
West Virginia Republicans have notably expressed disdain for the ACA, otherwise referred to as ‘Obamacare’ for the administration that introduced and implemented it. State attorney general Patrick Morrisey joined a federal lawsuit to repeal the ACA in 2018.
Some healthcare experts have said repealing the ACA could have dire consequences for people with pre-existing conditions.
“This is a compassionate, conservative response to alleviating the problems that are associated with healthcare delivery and a mechanism of pre-existing conditions,” Carmichael, R-Jackson, said at a press conference Tuesday.
He added he doesn’t typically sponsor or introduce legislation.
The bill will officially be introduced after the 2020 legislative session begins Wednesday, Jan. 8. Though the bill’s tentative co-sponsors who showed up to the press conference were all Republican, Morrisey — who said he requested the introduction of this bill — added he hopes it receives bipartisan support.
Del. Mick Bates, D-Beckley, said Tuesday before a healthcare coalition meeting he’s pleased Republicans are acknowledging concerns with pre-existing conditions, but lawmakers need more time to study if the bill will actually do what it intends.
“Does it actually achieve the goal that is intended?” Bates said. “If it doesn’t achieve the goals, I think there are other ways to get there.”
For one, Bates said other Delegates “on both sides of the aisle” are looking at legislation from other states to retain certain ACA protections if the law is repealed. He mentioned those other aspects include lifetime caps and universal benefits.
Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.