Hardworking Virginians should have health care

Published 11:31 am Wednesday, February 13, 2013

by Bill Kallio

Virginia has the chance to provide health coverage to 400,000 residents and their families.

As we face the realities of the recession, any of us could fall on hard luck, lose a job, or lose insurance and not be able to afford health care coverage. We need a safety net.

Expanding Medicaid will enable adults making $15,000 a year to get the health care they need. Without the expansion, uninsured adults will continue to go without care or receive charity care in hospital emergency rooms.

And since taxpayers pay for charity care, expanding Medicaid can save taxpayers money.

AARP believes everyone should have access to affordable health care.

More than 62,000 people age 50 to 64 could qualify for Medicaid in Virginia. Since mid-2010, the average duration of unemployment for experienced workers is over one year. The risk of being uninsured and unemployed at the same time could be reduced if states would make health care coverage available to nearly three million 50- to 64-year-olds and nearly 17 million Americans by expanding Medicaid this year.

Expanding Medicaid will provide coverage for the individuals who’ve paid in all their lives. In addition, it will give people without insurance access to preventive care and ease expensive emergency room overcrowding that costs all of us.

The General Assembly has a chance to do the right thing and provide health care coverage to nearly 400,000 uninsured residents. There will be no cost to the state for the first three years, and the state will never pay more than 10 percent of the cost in the future.

AARP urges the Virginia General Assembly to participate in Medicaid expansion because it would be an enormous health and economic benefit. For those who will be newly eligible in 2014, Virginia will be able to take advantage of the 100 percent federal match rate.

BILL KALLIO is state director for AARP Virginia and can be reached at GMcDaniel@aarp.org.