By Kathy May, Director of Virginia Consumer Voices for Healthcare (VCV)
Did you know that more than one million Virginians lack health insurance? That 70% of those who do not have health insurance have incomes below 200% of the federal poverty limit ? And that nearly 70% of the uninsured are members of working families?
As the Center focuses on poverty education this month, it's important to understand how health care policies, at both the federal and the state level, affect our low-income neighbors and poverty in our neighborhoods.
As you all know, the Affordable Care Act is dramatically changing health care policy nationwide. One aspect of the law is that it creates a new national Medicaid minimum eligibility level that covers most Americans with household income up to 133% of the federal poverty level. These are families with incomes around $25,000 per year for a family of three or under $15,000 a year for an individual. More than 420,000 uninsured Virginians would likely receive Medicaid coverage under the expansion. But the Supreme Court ruled that states are not required to expand Medicaid under the ACA.
Governor McDonnell has said that he is reviewing Virginia’s options. If Virginia doesn’t participate in the expansion, the state will be turning its back on hundreds of thousands of hard working, low-income Virginia families who need access to health care.
The Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act gives us the tools and the funding to provide access to a basic need – health care – to hard working Virginians. Access to health care means that Virginia families don’t have to worry about financial ruin if they get sick, don’t have to fear the loss of a job, and have peace of mind knowing that their children can thrive and be successful. It is a critical policy choice, the impact of which will be felt by hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Virginians.
I encourage each of you to continue learning about the health care policy decisions that our Commonwealth now faces, and advocate with us this fall and during the General Assembly session.