By Larry Barnett, candidate for Virginia House of Delegates, HD-27
If you understand why it’s important to get your oil changed every 6,000 miles, you’ll understand why it’s important for Virginia to follow the lead of 31 other states and expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Changing the oil regularly is a small investment that keeps your car’s engine humming. It ensures that your much larger investment in a vehicle will keep paying reliable transportation dividends for years to come. Expanding Medicaid is a small investment in hard-working Virginians that will pay enormous dividends benefiting all of us through a healthier, more productive workforce that will keep Virginia’s economic engine humming.
Medicaid is the state and federal program designed to provide healthcare coverage to poor Americans. Approximately 400,000 Virginians, including more than 25,000 veterans, remain excluded from it. They’ve fallen through the cracks, earning enough annual income to live above the poverty line (and remain unqualified for Medicaid), but not enough to afford private insurance.
Nearly 70 percent of these Virginians are adults working in industry sectors critical to Virginia’s continued prosperity, including: tourism, retail, construction, health and social services and education. They are taxpayers, many who have served our country, struggling to make ends meet.
Medicaid expansion would cover them, and the federal government would cover 90 percent or more of the cost.
The enormous reimbursement infusion of nearly $2 billion annually that comes with expansion will actually save Virginia money, freeing up resources for other priorities like education or transportation. Most importantly, however, it will provide Virginians already contributing to the state’s economy access to care.
Instead of visiting emergency rooms or, worse, not seeking treatment, it means worried parents can take sick kids to the pediatrician. It means more women with challenging pregnancies can visit obstetricians. It means veterans can get help they deserve when sick or injured.
Beyond access to quality care for some of Virginia’s most hardworking and deserving, the large amount of federal money will help keep Virginia’s economy powering forward by creating jobs. A report from The Virginia Family Law Center and The Commonwealth Institute estimates that Medicaid expansion could create more than 15,000 new healthcare jobs in Virginia that pay nearly $60,000 annually, an equation that will generate more than $68 million in state and local taxes.
Not a surprise when considering nearby Kentucky’s experience with expansion. A report by Deloitte Consulting and the University of Louisville’s Urban Studies Institute points out that Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion will create 40,000 jobs and add $30 billion to the state’s economy through 2021, concluding that the costs of expansion are more than offset by savings and new revenue from economic activity.
Individuals with access to healthcare are 80 percent less likely to have catastrophic medical expenses and are 50 percent less likely to borrow money or fail to pay other bills because of medical debt, according to the Virginia Family Law Center and the Commonwealth Institute. Without that access, taxpayers pick up a far larger tab in higher premiums, medicines and opportunity costs when healthcare expenses go unpaid.
Expanding Medicaid and removing healthcare from a long list of worries faced daily by struggling Virginians, including food, housing, education, substance abuse, and more, will free many to devote more energy to building their lives and making positive contributions to their communities and to our Commonwealth.
If elected Delegate, I’ll fight to expand Medicaid in Virginia. Why? I’ve been out talking with many people across the political spectrum in this community, and I’ve heard the number one issue on people’s minds: access to affordable healthcare for themselves and their loved ones.
It’s the right thing to do for the health of thousands of hardworking Virginians, including veterans and their families. And it’s a smart investment that will return an even healthier statewide economy that benefits all of us.