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August 20, 2015

As a Matter of Fact


While Virginia lawmakers stubbornly refuse to close the health care coverage gap for 195,000 people stuck in it, other states are doing the right thing by helping their hard-working residents get the medical care they need to stay healthy and productive.

recent opinion column in the Richmond Times-Dispatch by the governor of Kentucky persuasively discussed how closing the coverage gap benefits the Bluegrass State.

As of June, Kentucky has saved an estimated $109 million. And the state will continue to reap the economic benefits for years to come because savings from closing the coverage gap in Kentucky will continue to outweigh the costs. The same holds true in Virginia, too.

But most importantly, as Governor Beshear points out, “the core tenet of health care reform is helping families and saving lives. Not vague political theory, but helping people.”

That seems to be working, too. By embracing the federal Affordable Care Act and accepting the federal funding to close the coverage gap, Kentucky saw a substantial reduction in the rate of residents who lack health insurance: down to 9 percent from 20.4 percent. Meanwhile Virginia’s rate is stalled at 12.5 percent, less than one percentage point below from 2013.

Kentucky lawmakers saw an opportunity to transform the lives of hardworking Kentuckians by helping them afford quality coverage. And they took it. Now, people who work hard for low pay there don’t face the painful choice of medicine versus food. They need not forgo routine doctor and dental visits, or worry about not being able to afford basic health care. But 195,000 Virginians still do.

Last month, the Richmond Times-Dispatch cited Kentucky as a cautionary tale about what could happen if Virginia closed the gap and experienced enrollment higher than projections. But Governor Beshear sees it differently: “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts. The facts in Kentucky demonstrate that not only can states afford to expand Medicaid, but they also really can’t afford not to do it. Especially if they care about their people.”

In other words, closing the coverage gap is working in Kentucky. It could be working here, too.

–Rebecca Park, Health Care Advocacy Coordinator

The Commonwealth Institute

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