On April 11, Dr. Ike Koziol wrote in a letter to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “Governor Terry McAuliffe recently pushed our state legislature to expand Medicaid, and the House of Delegates rejected it. This would have allowed about 400,000 Virginians to obtain some form of medical insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The Governor’s efforts have failed before, so why did he try again? The answer is simple: It was the right thing to do.”
Dr. Koziol goes on to explain that he works in a free clinic in Wise County, Virginia, bordering West Virginia. In years past West Virginians would regularly cross state lines to take advantage of the offerings of the free clinic. But since West Virginia expanded Medicaid, West Virginians no longer hike across the border to access health care — the only patients seen at the free clinic are Virginians with diabetes, hypertension, malnutrition and other chronic conditions requiring regular, expensive medical care.
April 6, the day after the House of Delegates Republicans voted in unanimous party line to block Medicaid expansion and to deny health care benefits to 400,000 of their constituents who are working, but uninsured, the University of Maryland released a poll showing that 69 percent of our Commonwealth’s voters support Medicaid expansion. Expanding Medicaid with 100 percent federal funding would create 30,000 jobs, save our state budget $73 million, and more importantly provide basic health care for vulnerable Virginians.
Since the Affordable Healthcare Act was passed, we have left more than $10 billion on the federal table by failing to expand Medicaid. Virginia forfeits $6.6 million every day that Republicans continue to block this expansion. These funds that we do not access are tax dollars that each of us has already paid to the federal government. That money does not go into a savings account marked “For Virginia — in case the General Assembly changes its mind.” This money, $2.4 billion a year, goes to the other states that have decided to expand Medicaid.
Our federal taxes pay for West Virginia’s expanded healthcare services — you are welcome, West Virginia! And we deserve thanks from the 31 other states that have implemented Medicaid expansion since the ACA was enacted in 2010 as well. Most of these states have been the recipients of our generosity since 2014. Louisiana and Montana rejected expansion at first, but after some years, recognized the fiscal and health benefits available and welcomed what our money would bring.
Two weeks ago, the Kansas legislature voted to expand Medicaid, but Republican Governor Sam Brownback vetoed the measure. However, the Kansas legislators are gearing up for an override. The Maine Republican Governor has vetoed expansion five times, even though polls show that 60 percent of Maine residents support Medicaid expansion. That 60 percent have gathered 67,000 signatures to take the choice to the people of Maine in a referendum.
Governor McAuliffe has offered to call a special session of the General Assembly soon to vote only on Medicaid expansion. Our Republican majority has refused to attend if a session is called.
The Washington Post editorial board has termed this stubborn, partisan insistence on opposition to Medicaid expansion ”indefensible.” I agree.
Delegate Kory represents the 38th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. She may be emailed at DelKKory@house.virginia.gov.