With the 2012 election firmly behind us, now is the time to fully implement the Affordable Care Act and ensure that no one in West Virginia is without health care coverage.
In 2011, approximately 272,000 West Virginians between the ages of 18 and 64 lacked health coverage. As we highlighted in this recent report, about half of the state’s uninsured could gain health care coverage if the Mountain State expands Medicaid to cover low-income adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. This would be a great investment for the state, with the federal government picking up nearly 96 percent of the tab in the first six years (2014-2019).
As you can see in the chart above, West Virginia is among the states that have not made a clear decision on the Medicaid expansion.
Failing to expand Medicaid would squander the opportunity to boost our state economy. Medicaid expansion in West Virginia will amount to at least $3.7 billion in additional federal dollars invested in the state between 2014 and 2019. As health policy expert Judy Soloman notes, “Congressional Budget Office estimates that if all states adopt the expansion, they will spend only 2.8 percent more on Medicaid from 2014 to 2022 than they would have spent without health reform. And that estimate doesn’t account for the ways in which expanding Medicaid will save states money, such as by cutting the cost of treating uninsured residents in emergency rooms and health clinics.”
It is also important to point out that if West Virginia fails to expand Medicaid under the ACA, approximately 30,000 low-income West Virginians with incomes between 100 and 138 percent of the federal poverty level will have to seek coverage in the health care exchanges if they do not have access to affordable employer-sponsored insurance. Because of the greater cost-sharing arrangements for exchange coverage than in Medicaid, this means many of these low-income adults will experience greater financial hardships to meet their health care needs.
Governor Tomblin and the Legislature should take steps to expand Medicaid when the Legislature convenes in February of 2013. It will help thousands of working parents and other adults in West Virginia get the quality health care they need and give the state’s economy a real boost.