Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31) says she will be urging expanded Medicaid benefits when the Virginia General Assembly convenes.
“Expanding Medicaid is not only a lifeline for low- and moderate-income workers in Virginia who canâ€™t afford health insurance; it is a wise investment in the physical and economic health of Virginiaâ€™s families and our stateâ€™s future,” said Favola, who represents parts of Fairfax and Arlington and Loudoun Counties.
“Expanding eligibility for Medicaid to 133% of the poverty level would enable approximately 400,000 Virginians to gain access to affordable healthcare,” Favola said. “This is a good deal for Virginia taxpayers and the stateâ€™s healthcare safety net providers as well, since the federal government will pay 100 percent of the costs to expand coverage in 2014, 2015 and 2016. After that, it will pay no less than 90 percent.”
Currently, families without insurance are forced to rely on emergency rooms when injuries or illnesses become acute and care is provided at the most expensive point. Diverting patients away from emergency rooms to primary care doctors and nurses cuts per patient costs by half, according to a recent study by Virginia Commonwealth University and published in the medical journal Health Affairs.
Moreover, Favola said the practice of getting care at emergency rooms yields poor patient outcomes and dramatically reduces oneâ€™s ability to be productive at work, to learn in school, or to care for oneâ€™s family. Hospitals have little choice but to pass the cost of uninsured care to people with insurance. We are all paying the price for this inefficient allocation of health resources.
Under Medicaid expansion, Virginiaâ€™s economy would enjoy an infusion of approximately $20 billion over the next 10 years, she said. This would strengthen Virginiaâ€™s large and important health care sector and provide well-paying jobs. If we donâ€™t take advantage of this opportunity, the money designated for expansion in Virginia will go to other states and those states will reap the economic benefits while Virginia falls behind
Opponents argue that expansion is too expensive, citing estimates from the Governorâ€™s office that it would cost Virginia between $1 billion and $2.2 billion, over 10 years. However, savings to Virginiaâ€™s budget would largely offset those costs, Favola contends.
“Virginia has the opportunity to ease the pressure on working families for a very low cost, while growing Virginiaâ€™s economy and saving money. Now is the time for Governor McDonnell and the General Assembly to make the right choice for Virginia and expand Medicaid,” Favola said.