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June 28, 2012

SCOTUS Decision: ‘A victory for Virginians’

“Today’s decision is a victory for Virginians. The Affordable Care Act will protect Virginians from insurance companies’ most egregious practices, provide affordable health insurance coverage for hundreds of thousands of Virginians, and begin to bring rising health care costs under control. Virginia policymakers should move quickly to fully implement the Affordable Care Act in Virginia,” says John McInerney, Health Policy Director for the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis.

There is little time to waste. Virginia must prepare to launch a new, state-level marketplace where small businesses and individuals can buy quality and affordable health insurance, called an exchange. The state must gain federal approval for its exchange by January 2013. The state must also prepare to enroll hundreds of thousands of newly eligible Virginians in Medicaid beginning in January 2014.

The good news is that Virginia is well-positioned to meet these challenges. The Virginia Health Reform Initiative issued recommendations last year on how Virginia can best establish and run its exchange and the state has begun work on the information technology systems improvements necessary to support Medicaid’s expansion.

Now, the General Assembly and the Governor must work constructively together to authorize this new marketplace to ensure that quality, affordable health insurance is available to more small businesses and families in our state.

This will require only modest state resources. Millions of dollars in federal funding will pay for state implementation of the exchange. The federal government will fully fund the Medicaid expansion for the first three years, and will continue to pay the vast majority of its costs in the years that follow.

In addition, health reform has already helped thousands of Virginia consumers:

  • 63,000 young adults have gained health insurance by staying on their parents plan up to age 26.
  • Virginia’s seniors have saved an average of $600 per beneficiary on Medicare prescription drugs.
  • Community Health Centers in Virginia have received an additional $48 million in federal funding to treat many people without insurance and people with Medicaid.
  • Virginians no longer have to worry that their insurance company will cut off their benefits through practices known as “lifetime limits” and “recissions” if they need expensive medical care.

When the new health care law is fully in place in 2014:

  • 450,000 or more individuals and small business workers in Virginia will begin enrolling in private health insurance through a new health insurance marketplace called the Exchange.
  • An additional 400,000 or more low-income Virginians will begin to sign up for Medicaid, which will cover all adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $26,000 for a family of three.

Insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to any Virginian based on a “pre-existing condition” like cancer or diabetes. (Right now, that part of the Affordable Care Act applies only to children.)

The Commonwealth Institute

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