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August 26, 2015

Aiming for the Best of the Golden Years: Hopeful yet Doubtful


Kentucky and West Virginia are seeing huge drops
in the number of people without health coverage while Virginia’s rate has
barely budged, according to recent data. That’s
because those states have taken the common sense approach of helping their
residents – like those nearing retirement but not yet 65 – get the care they
need to stay healthy and productive. 

Meanwhile, in Virginia, 62,000 adults aged 50 to
64 are among those still stuck in the coverage gap, according to Virginia’s
branch of AARP,
because Virginia lawmakers stubbornly refuse to close that gap
even though the health of their constituents and the state’s finances would
be better off.

Between 2013 and 2015

when the federal
Affordable Care Act took full effect – the rate of West Virginia and Kentucky
residents without health insurance dropped
by more than half. West Virginia’s rate declined to 8.3 percent
from 17.6 percent; Kentucky’s to 9
percent from 20.4 percent.

Virginia is seeing nothing like that progress.
The rate of people lacking health insurance
is stalled at 12.5 percent, less than a percentage point below what it
was in 2013. That’s because Virginia continues to have one of the stingiest Medicaid
programs in the country.

Medicaid in Virginia makes it very difficult for adults with
children to get coverage. For example, working parents in a family of three
only qualify if they make less than about $10,300 a year, and that’s only if
they live in the most expensive parts of the state, like Fairfax County. In
some areas the income limit is as low as
$6,600. And people without kids are aren’t eligible for Medicaid in Virginia
regardless of their income.

And as for those 62,000 Virginians nearing
retirement age, by the time they reach 60, about 70 percent will have been
diagnosed with one or more chronic health conditions and nearly half will have
two or more. Closing
the coverage gap would improve these adults’ ability to get such preventive
care as routine doctor and dental visits as well as cancer screenings.

By staying healthy and getting the care they
need, they can continue to wear multiple hats as a worker, a community citizen,
a parent or grandparent, a spouse, and a friend. But with declining health and
being unable to afford medical treatment, they are instead at risk for severe financial stress and unmet health
care needs as they prepare for their golden years.

–Rebecca Park, Health Care Advocacy Coordinator

Photo: Rossographer
Creative Commons 2.0

The Commonwealth Institute

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