To the Editor:
Having spent a couple of days in Richmond last week advocating for the extension of health coverage to 400,000 low income Virginians, I am encouraged that the benefits outlined in your editorial (“Expanding Medicaid Good for Virginia,” Jan. 23-29) have found a receptive audience, even among Republican members of the General Assembly, who are predisposed to resist anything having to do with the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. "Obamacare." It's hard to argue against a program that will largely cover the working poor (those making the equivalent of $7.50 per hour) and underemployed seniors not yet old enough for Medicare, especially since the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of coverage for the first three years and 90 percent after that.
One objection I did hear (in addition to some muttering about the "undeserving poor") had to do with the financing of the Affordable Care Act and the Federal deficit. The first thing to remember is that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is fully funded by tax increases (mostly on the wealthy) and cost savings (due, in part, to the elimination of the charity care that hospital emergency rooms are currently required to provide). But even if you don't believe the Congressional Budget office that the ACA is fully funded, is it the job of the Virginia General Assembly to balance the federal budget? Like it or not, "Obamacare" is the law of the land, and Virginia should not deny health coverage to its low income citizens just to make some sort of symbolic point about national policy.