At the outset of an event in Arlington marking the fifth anniversary, to the day, of the signing of the Affordable Care Act into law, Rep. Donald S. Beyer, Jr. introduced Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe by saying, “Historians will one day write that the Affordable Care Act was the single most important act of moral leadership in the early 21st century: Emancipation, women’s suffrage, Social Security, the Affordable Care Act, each a bold move to expand upon the idea that all Americans have the equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Beyer added, “There is no denying that we badly need Medicaid expansion. We are lucky to have a true champion, fighting the good fight in Richmond. Gov. McAuliffe has been courageous and relentless, and one day soon he will prevail, and the amount of human suffering he will banish is almost beyond imagination.”
Gov. Terry McAuliffe told a group of health care professionals and advocates gathered in Arlington to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act that after this year’s election cycle, he’s “reasonably optimistic” that the state legislature will back his push to enroll the state in the Medicaid expansion component of the act.
He said that the argument in favor of the expansion is too strong simply from an economic development standpoint for reasonable Republicans – who’ve joined with their party’s radical right wing to block it so far – to continue rejecting it.
But he said that any reasonable Republicans in the legislature are now fearing for “being Tea Partied” in their own GOP primaries. If they came out for Medicaid expansion, radical anti-”Obama care” Tea Party types will run primary challenges against them. So, McAuliffe opines, they will wait until after this year’s elections.
All state senate and house of delegate seats will be up for election this November.
But in the meanwhile, over 400,000 Virginians are being kept from having health care coverage due to the Tea Party-inspired right wing opposition to expansion, with $1.7 billion in federal funds to Virginia to pay for it are being forfeited as a result.
“In addition to the moral obligation we have, expansion of Medicaid in Virginia will be a huge economic driver and job creator,” he said.
McAuliffe was joined by Rep. Beyer, who serves the 8th District of Virginia that covers Falls Church, and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell to lead today’s event. It also included contributions from State Delegates Patrick Hope and Alfonso Lopez and State Sen. Barbara Favola and numerous state health advocates.
Neil McNulty of the Virginia Business Coalition on Health said, “The business community needs to take the time to understanding the economic benefits” of the ACA and Medicaid expansion, adding that no business will want to go where there is no health care (referring to southwest Virginia, where one hospital has already closed and four others are on the brink).
McAuliffe echoed the comments, saying that approving the expansion of Medicaid in the state “could turbocharge our economy.” He said when he is working to bring new businesses to Virginia, not having Medicaid expansion in the state “it is like having one arm tied behind my back.”
He noted that other states under leadership more conservative than Virginia have opted for it, states like Utah, Kentucky and Tennessee. Right now, he said, a once-a-year team clinic held in Wise County is so overwhelmed with uninsured people seeking care that over a thousand are turned away and have to wait another year for medical attention.
HHS Secretary Burwell said that the goals of the ACA are in three areas — affordability, quality and access. In all three areas, the impact of the ACA has been better than predicted even by its proponents. Between 2011 and 2013, the nation experienced the lowest per capita health care costs on record.
Over 16 million Americans have gained quality, affordable health insurance since the Affordable Care Act became law. More than 11 million were able to sign up or re-enroll through the marketplace during this year’s open enrollment. Nearly 80 percent of the 2015 marketplace customers using the HealthCare.gov website purchased coverage for $100 a month or less after tax credits, Rep. Beyer said.