May 20, 2014
Virginia ranked second-worst among all states for the number of vulnerable minorities who had to go without health care in the last year because of the high cost, according to a new scorecard from The Commonwealth Fund. Only South Carolina ranked below Virginia on this key barometer of well-being.
Lawmakers in Richmond could go a long way toward improving this sorry picture by using federal funds that are available to close the coverage gap and provide more Virginians with access to quality, affordable health care.
A big part of the problem is that minorities are more likely to have low incomes and be uninsured, leaving them with fewer options for care. In Virginia, more than half – 52 percent – of the non-elderly adults who have incomes below the poverty line (about $20,000 for a family of three) and lack health insurance are minorities, despite the fact that minorities only represent 34 percent of Virginia’s population.
Virginia’s new health insurance marketplace has helped some minorities afford health insurance, but there’s only so much the marketplace can do.
That’s because only people with incomes above the poverty line qualify for the tax credits that help make the private plans in the marketplace affordable. Virginians who don’t have health insurance and make less than the poverty line fall into the coverage gap that Virginia lawmakers created when they refused to expand Medicaid, even though federal funds will cover most of the cost.
Virginia should not continue to accept racial disparities when it comes to having the opportunity to get quality, affordable health care. It is time for Virginia lawmakers to close the coverage gap and help uninsured Virginians of all races and ethnicities.
–Massey Whorley, Senior Policy Analyst