Wednesday, October 07, 2015

The Virginia GOP: Opposing Medicaid Without Good Reason

Next month the entire Virginia General Assembly is up for reelection - or preferably, replacement in the case of many of its Republican members.  In the noise machine that is the run up to the 2016 presidential election, including the ongoing GOP clown car circus, many Virginians seem oblivious to the election on November 3, 2015, and may fail to vote - something that favors the Republicans whose base, while crazy, tends to always go to the polls.  Among the issue to be addressed in the 2016 session of the General Assembly is the issue of Medicaid expansion, something opposed by Republicans largely because it is part of the Affordable Health Care Act championed by Barack Obama.  These individuals - who pretend to be the party of faith - happily throw 400,000 some Virginians in the gutter rather than had Obama a success.  The Virginian Pilot blasts these modern day Pharisees in a main editorial today.  Here are highlights:

REPUBLICAN state lawmakers' refusal to accept billions in Virginians' federal taxes to subsidize insurance for some 400,000 uninsured people has repeatedly been exposed as the partisan political ploy that it is.

The expansion of Virginia's managed-care Medicaid program, the most efficient of two divisions of Medicaid in Virginia, is a prime objective of Democratic President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act.

The 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the constitutionality of that federal law, however, left to the respective states a decision whether to accept the return of federal tax revenue for Medicaid expansion. In Virginia, where Republicans control both chambers of the legislature, GOP delegates and senators dug in their heels and refused.

The effects of that fiscally irresponsible position extend far beyond the health care of lower-income, uninsured Virginians.

Republicans have chosen to bleed hospitals in their own districts of necessary revenue, diminishing access to quality health care while undermining local and statewide economic development efforts. All so they can politically oppose a lame duck president over a law twice declared constitutional and which the GOP doesn't have the votes in Washington to overturn.

State data show one-third of Virginia's acute-care hospitals lost money operating in 2013, as the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association pointed out in a statewide public-awareness campaign. Roughly half of rural Virginia's acute-care hospitals lost money that year.

Those figures are unsustainable, and they portend a looming crisis for health care - and for the economy - in Virginia. That crisis could be averted simply by expanding Medicaid and returning Virginians' federal tax dollars to the commonwealth.

The health care industry is the top employer in the vast majority of Virginia's rural counties, providing critical jobs and tax revenue.  It's worth noting many of those areas are represented by Republican legislators, who seem intent on punishing their constituents in order to score a political victory. Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who has focused heavily on economic development, campaigned in 2013 on a pledge to increase health insurance coverage.

Under the law, federal funds would cover 100 percent of costs for expanding Medicaid coverage through 2016, and then gradually phase down to a floor of 90 percent in 2020.
There is no business case for refusing the return of billions in tax dollars already paid by residents to improve health care for Virginia's working poor, shore up Virginia hospitals' ailing financial conditions and strengthen an industry critical to Virginia's economy.

No comments: