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Much of Health-Care Fight in WV was at Grassroots

Grassroots groups in West Virginia organized to put public pressure on Sen. Shelley Moore Capito ahead of last week's health care votes. (Dan Heyman)
Grassroots groups in West Virginia organized to put public pressure on Sen. Shelley Moore Capito ahead of last week's health care votes. (Dan Heyman)
July 31, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Grassroots public pressure in states like West Virginia had a role in defending the Affordable Care Act.

Leading into last week's dramatic final votes, organizations and ordinary citizens across the state put on dozens - maybe hundreds - of events. Selina Vickers of Fayette County says she doesn't have a title beyond regular citizen - but she helped organize a public forum this spring to inform people about what might be lost if Obamacare were repealed.

Vickers said a lot of folks came in disliking the ACA.

"But they really didn't understand it. And when they begin to understand, there still might be things that they don't like about it, but they understood that it would really hurt West Virginia if it would be repealed,” Vickers said. "And so they started making phone calls."

Citizen groups put a lot of focus on calling Sen. Shelley Moore Capito - a vital swing vote. Of the four important votes, in the end Capito made three in favor of repeal.

Repeal supporters argue that the ACA is an unsustainable, big government program. But polls show the repeal legislation became increasingly unpopular the more people knew about it.

Vickers pointed to people who might oppose the expansion of Medicaid as a giveaway to freeloaders. She said their opinion may change when they find out how many of the families who gained coverage are headed by parents struggling with low pay or part-time work.

"They're available to work full time, they want to work full time, but these companies - who make billions of dollars a year - won't give them a full-time job and benefits,” she explained. "So they're the working poor."

Vickers said she found herself moved by what repeal would do to the people around her.

"We have friends and family who are going to be drastically affected if the ACA is repealed,” she said. "And we can't just stand up for ourselves, we have to stand up for other people that we care about."

Congress may try again to repeal - or repeal and replace - the ACA. Some senators, including Joe Manchin, are calling for Democrats to be included in the drafting of any future bill.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV