The 83,000 enrolled West Virginians does not include more than 7,000 people who have been found eligible for Medicaid through the national web site, healthcare.gov. Once these people are enrolled in Medicaid (and there are technical problems still to be resolved), enrollment could easily hit 90,000.
We should all celebrate this outstanding accomplishment. But it also raises some serious questions for those who support repeal of the Affordable Care Act: What happens to the 90,000 low-income West Virginians who have just gained coverage? Are they to become uninsured again? Do you have an alternative plan for covering these and other uninsured West Virginians?
Also, for the 18,000 young adults in West Virginia who have gained coverage through their parents' policies under the Affordable Care Act, do you believe they should lose coverage too?
It is not just coverage expansion that makes the Affordable Care Act worth preserving and protecting. The Affordable Care Act is closing the doughnut hole -- a coverage gap in Medicare's prescription drug benefits. This is not a small reform. More than 37,000 West Virginia senior citizens in 2012 saved $33.6 million in prescription drug costs as a result of the Affordable Care Act. This is a savings of almost $900 a year for each senior who fell into the doughnut hole. For those who favor repeal of the Affordable Care Act, do you really want to re-impose this cost on seniors for prescription drug coverage? Do you have any alternative recommendation for eliminating the doughnut hole?
Perhaps Sam Rayburn, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, said it best: "Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one."
It is time for those who oppose the Affordable Care Act to become good carpenters. We need to constructively work together to improve the Affordable Care Act and build a health care system that provides quality, affordable health care for everyone. Just tearing down the Affordable Care Act may currently be politically expedient, but it is not sound public policy.
Bryant is director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care.