As supporters of closing the health care coverage gap, Healthcare for All Virginians Coalition held a press conference in renewing our call for the legislature to take action this session and accept the funding available to Virginia to close the gap and get up to 400,000 people the health care they need.
“We challenge opponents to stop saying ‘NO’ to everything. Stop wasting precious dollars, stop hurting hospitals, and stop compromising the health of their constituents,” said Jill Hanken, Senior Health Attorney with the Virginia Poverty Law Center. “We have a statewide problem, and there is an efficient and cost-effective way to solve it: Accept the funding available to Virginia to Close the Coverage Gap.”
“There’s a very strong fiscal argument to closing the coverage gap,” said Michael Cassidy, President of The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis. “The state would see very significant state budget savings by not having to pay for the wide array of services we currently provide to the uninsured with state general fund dollars. At a time when lawmakers are considering further cuts to key services, these savings are being left on the table. Lawmakers have a fiscally responsible way to close the coverage gap. What’s not fiscally responsible is to ignore options to close the gap, to continue to have Virginia tax dollars go to Washington and not come back in the form of greater opportunities to access health care for our residents,” said Cassidy.
He also called attention to a recent report, Every Legislator, Every District, that identifies the hard numbers around constituents in every legislative district that stand to gain from closing the coverage gap.
Unlike Virginia, a majority of states have taken advantage of the opportunity to expand their Medicaid programs. Today, 27 states plus the District of Columbia have closed their coverage gaps. This includes neighboring states like West Virginia and Kentucky. It also includes states led by Republican Governors like Pennsylvania, Arizona, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Ohio.
In addition to the states that have already expanded, there are now at least four additional states led by Republican governors that have filed proposals or are negotiating with CMS to close their coverage gaps. These states are Tennessee, Wyoming, Utah, and Indiana. Montana and Alaska also are contemplating proposals, and there are suggestions from the Governors of North Carolina and Alabama that expansion could be considered there as well.
“These states are realizing it makes no sense to pass up the available federal funding to help low-income uninsured people receive much-needed health care,” said Hanken.