9 battleground states show health reform’s high stakes

Lora Wilkerson does not have to look far to see the potential effect of the Senate’s ongoing efforts to overhaul the nation’s health system. The Charleston, West Virginia, woman needs only peer into the bright eyes of her 3-year-old granddaughter, Ellie.

The girl was diagnosed at 18 months old with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare cancer that mostly affects children. Wilkerson said Ellie is still alive because of the Medicaid coverage and patient protections available under the current health care law, provisions that the latest version of the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA) would overturn.

“Ellie would have died,” Wilkerson said at a press event held Thursday in Charleston, West Virginia. “Ellie survives, but continues to have nerve damage in her hands and feet.” The girl receives physical, occupational and speech therapy on a weekly basis.

Little Ellie is just one of more than 180,000 West Virginians now covered by Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Their coverage is threatened by the BCRA provision that would phase out the enhanced rate at which the federal government funds Medicaid expansion between 2021 and 2023. Expanded Medicaid makes coverage available to people who earn too much to qualify for the traditional Medicaid program but earn less than 138 percent of the federal poverty line (that is $28,180 for a family of three in West Virginia).

My latest at AMA Wire. Read the whole shebang.