FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 19, 2014
Virginia Has Now LostOne Quarter of a Billion Dollarsby Refusing Available Funds To Provide Health Insurance to Uninsured Virginians.
Healthcare for All Virginians Coalition Urges Lawmakers to Close the Coverage Gap
RICHMOND, VA – As of today, Virginia has now forfeited $250 million by refusing federal dollars to provide coverage to as many as 400,000 uninsured Virginians. That's money that could have been used to fund needed health care services and treatments, shore up the state's budget, and help keep some of the state's biggest employers open for business, according to speakers at a press conference today in Richmond, organized by the Healthcare for All Virginians Coalition.
“Diseases don't distinguish between people who have insurance and those who don't,” said Dr. Richard Szucs, a Richmond-area physician and immediate past chairman of the Richmond Academy of Medicine, who spoke at the press conference. “As I consider the fallout from the federal money that Virginia has already forfeited, I am concerned about what can happen next as uninsured people become sicker as their untreated conditions deteriorate.”
Dr. Szucs quantified what kind of treatments and procedures the lost $250 million could have provided:
- 4,897,160 primary care visits
- 3,815,628 mental health screening visits
- 297,973 half-day hospitalizations for mental illness
- 12.5 million boxes of insulin strips (25 day supply)
- 4,798,464 inhalers
- 62.5 million 30-day prescriptions for Lisinopril (hypertension medicine)
- 5,950,000 mammograms
- 358,166 colonoscopies
But the lost federal money also amounts to lost savings for Virginia's cash-strapped budget. Independent analysis shows that by accepting federal dollars to close the coverage gap, lawmakers would be able to achieve over $1 billion in budget savings by using that federal money to pay for health care that is being paid for currently with state dollars.
“More than 21 percent of Virginia's revenue comes from the federal government,” said Michael Cassidy, President and CEO of The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, an independent fiscal and economy policy organization in Richmond. “In 2015 we're relying on over $900 in federal money for schools and over $140 million for public safety. And last year alone we relied on over $1 billion in federal money for transportation needs across the state. The truth is that federal funding has been effective at helping Virginia and other states provide essential services for their residents for decades. We should welcome the funding for quality, affordable health care, not look for excuses to block it.”
While the delay in accepting the federal money already allocated to pay for closing the gap continues in Richmond, the state's hospitals and the people they serve are the real victims.
“Virginia has lost $250 million. And as each day passes, Virginia loses $5 million more,” said Jill Hanken, Health Attorney with the Virginia Poverty Law Center. “But what really troubles us most is the loss of medical care that the money could have provided for so many uninsured Virginians. The Senate's plan offers a creative and thoughtful way to cover uninsured Virginians and keep Virginia's tax dollars at home. It also addresses each and every objection to providing coverage articulated by the House. We urge the House to support a plan that closes the coverage gap now.