Governor addresses Medicaid issue

Published 11:32 am Friday, May 23, 2014

by Gov. Terry McAuliffe

When I first made the decision to run for governor, I did so for a simple reason: I believed the knowledge and experience I have accrued from a lifetime in business could help me create jobs, grow and diversify our economy, and lead Virginia forward.

Throughout the years, I learned many lessons that will guide my decision-making as governor. I learned to recognize a good deal when I see one.

And I learned, perhaps most importantly, that the best decisions are made when people come together around what’s best for everyone.

That is why I am dedicated to closing the healthcare coverage gap to enable 400,000 uninsured Virginians access to quality healthcare. These 400,000 Virginians do not qualify for Medicaid under Virginia’s existing program, but can’t afford health insurance through the federal health exchange.

So often they are left to pay out-of-pocket for medical expenses, wait too long to seek care for chronic or treatable diseases, or have to choose between putting food on the table or making a visit to the doctor.

These 400,000 Virginians are our friends and neighbors—70 percent are members of working families—and we owe it to them to come together to close the coverage gap.

Here in Isle of Wight, Southampton and Franklin, 5,000 Virginians would be newly eligible for healthcare, according to an analysis done by The Commonwealth Institute.

Not only is this morally the right thing to do, it’s economically the right thing to do. Closing the coverage gap is 100 percent paid for by the federal government for the first three years of the program, and after that, the federal government will pay no less than 90 percent of the costs.

Due to the Affordable Care Act, Virginians are paying billions of dollars to Washington. We have the opportunity to bring this money back—$2 billion per year—to expand healthcare coverage to the uninsured, but instead, Republican members of the House of Delegates want to turn that money away.

If we bring this money back, we can create as many as 30,000 jobs, and we will reduce the cost of health care and save our state budget $1 billion over the next eight years.

There is a proposal on the table right now in the Senate of Virginia to close the coverage gap—a proposal with bipartisan support, offered by a Republican Senator. It will expand access to healthcare for hundreds of thousands of Virginians in a responsible, market-based way, and will protect Virginia in case the federal government ever decides to renege on its commitment to pay its share.

However, Republican members of the Virginia House of Delegates refuse to even come to the table to discuss the proposal. They have offered no ideas on how to address the 400,000 uninsured Virginians who could be receiving health insurance today, many of whom are their own constituents.

There is room for discussion about the best way to get this important task done. But in order to find common ground, all parties involved need to come to the table to compromise. The stakes are too high to wait any longer to get this done.

I encourage all of you to contact your local delegate and let him or her know how important this is for your community, for your families, and for the economy. Write a letter, send an email, or call the local district office.

You have the power to move Virginia forward and convince leaders in Richmond to find a solution to closing the healthcare coverage gap.

TERRY MCAULIFFE is the governor of Virginia.