Editorial: Deadly Medicaid Debacle

Editorial: Deadly Medicaid Debacle

Literally killing poor people who could have health care, while refusing to give Virginia’s economy a boost.

The poor people of Virginia are so seriously harmed by the actions of the Virginia General Assembly in refusing to expand Medicaid at little additional cost to the Commonwealth that those harmed should have some legal recourse.

The damage will cost many lives and the productivity of many. People who will needlessly die of cancer undetected until it is too late. People whose productive lives will be cut short because of untreated diabetes. People who will finally qualify for Medicare and Medicaid because they are permanently disabled after stroke or heart attack that could have been prevented.

Examples of health harm beyond the poor: There are the extra flu cases because a working person who doesn’t have health insurance so doesn’t get a flu shot also can’t afford to be off work and infects other by being at work while sick.

With whooping cough on the rise, people who will be around infants are advised to get a booster shot to protect the infants for whom the disease can be deadly, but if you don’t have health coverage, you are unlikely to get the booster.

Vulnerable people, elderly, young children, people with chronic illness, people on chemotherapy, will get sick more than necessary even though they have insurance because of the 200,000-plus people integrated in all aspects of our communities who do not have access to basic health care.

Meanwhile, leaders lament the loss of federal dollars in Virginia due to the sequester and reduced spending on defense, homeland security and other programs. Here is the one place where Virginia’s economy could get a boost. Expanding Medicaid would create an estimated 30,000 jobs and pump hundreds of millions of dollars into Virginia’s economy. Hospitals support expanding Medicaid which would offset many of the costs of caring for uninsured populations. So far, Virginia has lost out on about $1 billion that could be creating jobs and making our local economy healthier in addition to protecting health in our communities.

Business groups and chambers of commerce around Virginia, including the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, support the expansion of Medicaid in Virginia under the Affordable Care Act.

In Virginia, Medicaid eligibility for adults without disability is almost nonexistent, limited to parents with incomes below 51 percent of poverty, or about $11,900 a year for a family of four, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Adults without dependent children remain ineligible regardless of their income. Refusing to expand Medicaid is hurting all of us, but the most vulnerable are hurting the most.