Sen. Shelley Moore Capito is proposing a solution to the GOP's healthcare woes that pleases West Virginians — one that would keep parts of Obamacare, but let people and companies escape the law's mandates, and also boost funding to fight opioid addiction.
"There is still going to be a lot of passion, at least I'm seeing it at home, on protecting certain parts of Obamacare," Capito, a Republican, told the Washington Examiner.
Capito left the Capitol last week after a failed attempt by GOP senators to advance a measure to repeal and replace Obamacare. She was among a handful of swing GOP votes who initially refused to vote for the Republican measure, and announced, "I did not come to Washington to hurt people."
She later voted to advance the "skinny" Obamacare repeal bill, but it failed when three other Republicans refused to support it.
Earlier this week, President Trump called out Capito at a huge rally in Huntington, referring to her as a "friend … who voted for us on healthcare."
Capito is now looking ahead to what must happen to stabilize the failing Obamacare health insurance markets, which have dwindled to one or two choices in every West Virginia county. Premiums have climbed 169 percent since 2013.
According to Capito, Congress must first stabilize the marketplace by ensuring federal money is provided for cost sharing subsidies, which help reduce premiums.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., head of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pension Committee, called on Trump to extend cost-sharing subsidies through 2018. But Capito said any money provided for shoring up Obamacare should be provided through Congress.
"We should be having oversight over that," Capito said. "But stabilizing the market is really important. Sen. Alexander is asking for something that is not unreasonable, so I would support that."
The raging opioid addiction problem in West Virginia is another huge factor in Capito's support of a bill to replace Obamacare. Any plan to replace the healthcare law must include money for attacking the problem.
"That's one of the things my state is talking about all the time," Capito told the Washington Examiner. "We have the highest overdose rate in the country."
Capito said she strongly supports repealing the mandates that are a central component of Obamacare, and said constituents are paying thousands of dollars in penalties because they cannot afford to purchase highly priced plans.
"I think the mandates have to fall," Capito said. "I don't fundamentally believe in those."
Capito would support replacing Obamacare with a proposal authored by Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana that gives states the power to end Obamacare but includes a provision that would automatically enroll people in basic plans, "to try to get more people in it."
Capito is also weighing another plan authored by Cassidy and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina that would give states control over Obamacare tax revenue and whether to keep the mandates in place.
"On the face of it, it looks like something I might be able to support," Capito said, adding she is waiting for the Congressional Budget Office to provide a cost and coverage analysis.
"It's going to get scored, and we are going to look at other things," Capitol said.