RICHMOND, VA. – Last week, Delegate Mark Sickles (D-43) introduced HB 348, a bill that requires the Virginia Board of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) to submit a plan to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services that expands access to Medicaid for low-income parents and childless adults, and people with disabilities.
“Since 2014, Virginia has decided not to accept new federal funds, preventing up to 400,000 Virginians from receiving quality routine and preventative health care,” said Delegate Mark Sickles. “In the 43rd District, more than 1,600 people would gain health care coverage if HB 348 becomes law.”
A prime beneficiary of the new funds would be individuals, including veterans, suffering from mental illnesses, opioid addiction. Over the biennium, accepting the funds provides a plus $138 million net to our bottom line because some services now provided on a 50-50 basis are services that are eligible for the 90-plus federal funds.
“Currently, our uninsured neighbors show up at the emergency room, and the hospital is required to serve them. Providing care in this manner is expensive and inefficient. The resulting cost is baked into insurance premiums paid by society-at-large. If we are ever to get control of rising health care costs—the number one concern of Virginians—we need to start unpacking cross-subsidies in the health care system. The first step is to ensure that every single low-income Virginian has a way to pay for routine preventative care, or secure a health care home.”
Opposition to expansion is based on the fear that states would eventually be left holding the bag because Congress could not keep its commitment to fund 90 percent of the expansion population over the long term.
“What Congress does in the future is a reasonable concern,” says Sickles, “but the direction Congress wants to take is now crystal clear. This past fall, Congress came within a single vote of block-granting the entire Medicaid program—NOT just the expansion population, but the entire existing program, to the states. With a base per capita expenditure level that is 46th in the Nation, Virginia would have been a colossal loser. By enacting HB 348, Virginia will be better prepared for the far-reaching change Congress may continue to pursue.”
“In summary, every day we refuse to expand Medicaid in the Commonwealth we turn away $6.6 million of our very own tax dollars and bar up to 400,000 Virginians from accessing much-needed and optimal health care services,” said Delegate Sickles. “A super majority of Virginians are now ready for change and want us to deploy our own federal tax money to close the coverage gap now.”