Benefits Never Go Away

Sen. Joe Manchin insists the numbers he’s using to suggest he hasn’t made up his mind how to vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh are accurate. But, he told me in a phone conversation this week, so are mine.

Realistically, it doesn’t really matter. Manchin, D-W.Va., is concerned that Kavanaugh could be the high court vote that alters federal health insurance policy. That could mean hundreds of thousands of West Virginians lose their coverage or find they cannot afford it, he says.

That ignores the big difference between God and the federal government, however. The Lord may give and the Lord may take away — but Washington almost never takes away.

The Lord doesn’t worry about being voted out of office, after all.

After President Donald Trump nominated Kavanaugh, Manchin issued a release stating he wants to talk to the potential justice about his philosophy on health care. It has been suggested that a court with Kavanaugh on it might declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.

Manchin worried that, “The Supreme Court will ultimately decide if nearly 800,000 West Virginians with pre-existing conditions will lose their health care. This decision will directly impact almost 40 percent of my state, so I’m very interested in (Kavanaugh’s) position on protecting West Virginians with pre-existing conditions. …”

Last week, I suggested Manchin’s numbers are inflated. I wrote that the respected Kaiser Family Foundation estimates there are 392,000 Mountain State residents between 18-64 years of age with “declinable” pre-existing conditions. In other words, insurance companies might refuse to cover them.

Manchin contends the KFF figure “relies on a narrower definition of pre-existing conditions” than his, which comes from the Department of Health and Human Services. It also excludes children and older West Virginians, which I pointed out last week.

Still, Manchin is relying on a worst-case scenario to be skeptical of Kavanaugh — and, as I noted, perhaps to justify a vote against confirming him. That would not go over well among Mountain State voters, who support Trump like residents of no other state.

In fact, Manchin’s number itself argues against his case.

Imagine, if you will, a member of Congress — of either party — having the nerve to allow as many people as Manchin envisions to lose their health insurance. You probably can’t picture that, because it won’t happen.

One means of imperiling insurance coverage would be for the high court to declare the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA to be unconstitutional. Here in West Virginia, that could affect as many as 295,000 people.

Nationwide, the number would jump to 15.1 million. In most states, the number of people losing insurance would be enough to ensure the defeat of any member of Congress going along with the change. It could be decisive in a presidential election.

That’s why it won’t happen.

Consider that both the Social Security and Medicare programs are running out of money. Why, then, doesn’t the government adopt more aggressive means testing — limiting benefits for those with higher incomes — than the minimal levels in effect now?

Do you want to be the politician telling 62 million voters they may receive lower Social Security benefits than they expect? Or to tell 44 million Medicare beneficiaries they may have to cover more of their health insurance costs?

Of course not. If you’re in office, you want to stay there. Reducing or eliminating government benefits for a substantial number of voters would be political suicide. That’s why it just isn’t done. Ever.

Give former President Barack Obama and liberals who helped him enact the ACA credit. They created a system that was such a massive giveaway it can’t be taken back.

So don’t worry, senator. Eight hundred thousand West Virginians are not going to lose their health insurance.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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