CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Several dozen advocates stood on the steps of the West Virginia State Capitol Friday to plead their case for the Affordable Care Act as part of a nationwide tour.
They worry health care legislation could be repealed by Congress with no replacement ready to go, fearing that a repeal could affect hundreds of thousands of people just in West Virginia.
Dr. Ashley Torlone, a family doctor from Wheeling, tells WSAZ she stands to lose much if the Affordable Care Act goes away.
"I went to school all this time, I did a residency and now my own child isn't covered," said Dr. Torlone.
At age 3, her son Jacob was diagnosed with autism. Her employer’s plan wouldn’t continue to cover his treatments once an autism diagnosis was made.
To get the intensive therapy he needed, she pulled him from her employer's plan and entered him into the health care marketplace.
Two years later, with 30 hours a week of therapy, he's gone from unable to make eye contact to playing with others and learning his letters and numbers.
"From a mother's worst fear of he's never going to reach his potential to a situation where there's hope and I can see him achieving the things he wants to achieve," she said.
According to the advocacy group West Virginians for Affordable Health Care and its director Renate Pore, Jacob is far from alone if Obamacare is repealed.
"My biggest fear is that 200,000 West Virginians will lose their health care coverage and access to health care," Pore said.
If there’s a repeal, Pore adds another 800,000 West Virginians with preexisting conditions could be denied coverage and 1.2 million could lose guaranteed coverage of certain free services like cancer screenings.
She admits she's still in shock that Donald Trump was elected President, and after dozens of symbolic Congressional votes to repeal his signature legislation, there could be some meaningful ones ahead.
"He's doing what he said in the campaign, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised," she said. Still, "I'm shocked that this could be happening to us right now."
Karen Williams, with the group Our Children Our Future, told WSAZ she never thought Obamacare would affect her thanks to her good job. But now she credits the ACA for saving her elderly mother money on her prescriptions and giving health insurance to her two children, one who is still in grad school and working and one whose company went out of business.
"They need health care. We take it for granted that they are going to graduate and get these great jobs and have health insurance provided by a company but that's not true in today's economy," Williams said.
The biggest fear for Torlone is that Jacob could access to therapies that could change his life forever, which is why she drove all the way down from Wheeling to proclaim a message of don’t repeal.
"I know that's probably unlikely but being barring that I would like to see a viable replacement," Torlone said.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., is among the Republicans to vote for a repeal earlier this month. Earlier this week, we covered her co-sponsorship of the Patient Freedom Act, which advocates like Pore said is a step in the right direction.
WSAZ asked her office if the Senator would ever repeal Obamacare without a replacement plan. Her staff replied that there are too many unknown factors at this point to be able to answer with a simple yes or no.
The event at the Capitol was supposed to be a bus tour, but the bus broke down in Pennsylvania.