September 16, 2014
Poised to Fall Behind
New data out today show that nearly 1 million Virginia residents went without health coverage in 2013, according to the Census Bureau. Though our uninsured rate is below the national average, Virginia is a populous state. That’s why only 12 other states are home to more uninsured people.
And while a lot has changed for the better since 2013 in many states, Virginia’s lawmakers have been avoiding the obvious tool that would help us move the needle on coverage – expanding Medicaid with federal dollars.
Many states, for example, have decided to close their coverage gaps and lower the number of uninsured in their states, by expanding Medicaid and using federal funding to cover people with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty line. A study from earlier this summer found that states that closed their coverage gaps have nearly 38 percent fewer people without coverage than before.
But Virginia’s lawmakers stood – and continue to stand – in the way of that improvement. In states like Virginia that have refused to close the gap, the decline was only 9 percent.
In a special session later this week, lawmakers have another chance to change course and get this policy decision right. The fact is Medicaid works: it works to get people coverage, it works to improve health outcomes, it works to help Virginia close the budget gap. And the offer on the table from the federal government is sound.
The right choice for Virginia’s lawmakers is clear. Other states are moving ahead and expanding coverage. Virginia’s continued refusal will simply leave us falling behind.
–Mitchell Cole, Research Assistant