The old saying “the days go slow, but the years go fast” reminds us that time passes relatively quickly. My belief is that we have to live with urgency because life is short and we only get so many days in which to make a difference. With legislative sessions, the days are long and full, but it is hard to believe we are already over two and a half weeks into the 2018 Session. Committee meetings occupy most of the mornings and afternoons, and the daily floor sessions are getting longer.
Medicaid expansion remains one of the priority issues this legislative session. In my newsletters in the past, I have outlined many of the benefits and potential concerns about expanding Medicaid. The bottom line is that Medicaid expansion would provide coverage to nearly 400,000 Virginians, seventy-five percent of whom work full-time or live with someone who does. The population we are discussing is the working poor: people who cannot get insurance through their employer and do not make enough to afford private insurance. Virginians are paying for Medicaid expansion through increased taxes contained in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). We are just not receiving the benefits of those taxes, which were not repealed during the first year of the new federal administration. In terms of cost, the federal government pays no less than 90 percent of expansion. In fact they paid 100 percent during the first few years. We lost out on that opportunity. Now it is down to 92.5 percent. We are spending state revenues because of our decision not to expand, so expansion would add nearly $130 million to Virginia’s budget. Expansion would allow us to ease the pain of many rural hospitals struggling to deal with federal cuts in Medicare reimbursement rates. The money we save and the increased access to services would allow us to fulfill much of our vision to improve our mental health system. Medicaid expansion is critically important to me, and I will continue to beat the drum. [Read more…]