This March, West Virginia’s senior senator, Joe Manchin, appeared at a series of town halls while the Senate was on recess. Hundreds of West Virginians attended, but most were probably unaware of the arduous task behind pressuring the senator to listen to his constituents. Numerous grassroots organizations had sprung up around the state in the months following the election, and several of these were desperate that our Congressional delegation listen to their concerns. One group in Charleston, Rise Up! West Virginia, had spent weeks calling staffers, emailing, sending invitations, attending public appearances, and even protesting at state offices.
While neither Senator Capito nor Congressman Mooney relented, Manchin attended four events in the state over the long weekend. Three of these were specifically devoted to healthcare and it was evident at the open forum event in South Charleston that the issue loomed large in the minds of those in the Kanawha Valley.
The assault on American healthcare promised by Paul Ryan and his Republican majority came quickly. 24 million Americans stood to lose their healthcare if the most extreme versions of the Republican plan passed, including 184,000 West Virginians. The Mountain State had the largest percentage drop in uninsured since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, falling from 29% uninsured to 9%.
Thankfully, moderate Republicans, including Capito, knew that repeal of the ACA, especially the Medicaid expansion that benefited so many in W.Va., was political suicide. Even with majorities in the House and Senate, Trump was unable to deliver on his promise to repeal Obamacare.
It’s time for the left to capitalize on the Republicans’ misstep. If Democrats want to win big in 2018, they should make Medicare for All the issue of the campaign.
It’s time to admit that the ACA is not without its problems, especially among those just above the income line for Medicaid. The self-employed, those who do contract work, and others are unable to afford prices on the exchange, so they are left paying penalties and getting nothing in return. And too many middle class workers have seen increases in their premiums with nothing to show for it.
60% of Americans support Medicare for All, including 40% of Trump voters — all without much awareness around the issue. It’s time for centrist Dems like Manchin to decide which matters more: campaign money from pharma, hospitals, and others who benefit from the market or the health of working families.
In the wealthiest nation that has ever existed, it is unconscionable that 28 million go without the healthcare they need. Medicare for All is an issue whose time has come.