April 16, 2014
Together Since 1968
Opponents of accepting the federal funds available to help Virginia’s working poor get health coverage are not only denying their constituents’ needs, they’re also ignoring nearly 50 years of history by trying to drive a wedge between health coverage and the state budget.
Way back in 1968, Virginia lawmakers accepted federal Medicaid funds for the first time to help some low-income people get health coverage. They did it through the budget, and the program has been in the budget for nearly 50 years.
More recently, lawmakers came together to help low-income children through the state’s Family Access to Medical Insurance Security program in 1998 and extended the program to pregnant women through budget action in 2005. In 2000, lawmakers used the budget to fund a new program for people dealing with disabilities, and they’ve allowed more people into the program through the budget nearly every year since.
Last year, lawmakers used the budget to set up a process for covering more Virginians. They created the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission, gave its members the authority to close the coverage gap, and appropriated the federal money to help pay for the new health care coverage—not through stand-alone legislation, but through the budget.
While lawmakers bicker about whether Medicaid is a budget issue or not, there are folks across Virginia struggling to put food on the table and fuel in the gas tank. Even as they manage to tread water, not having health insurance means that when they get sick or hurt they are sunk.
Lawmakers have an opportunity to come together to help more working Virginians get the care they need to stay healthy and productive. Medicaid and the state budget have been going strong for nearly 50 years, and there’s no good reason to split them up now.
–Massey Whorley, Senior Policy Analyst