Letter to the editor, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, printed April 26, 2018

Don’t turn away from affordable health care

Virginia legislators a few years ago refused billions of dollars that could have been used to extend health care access to low-income individuals and families.

These federal funds should be brought home to expand Medicaid to people lacking comprehensive health care coverage because of costs here in Virginia.

Some may misunderstand the people we are worried about—those who are eligible for Medicaid, as well as the people who have been deprived of reliable health care access. Do we think those who are unable to afford health care are so different from the rest of us? Do they not love their families, do they not deserve love, health and human dignity as much as those of us with steady incomes and jobs that provide insurance?

No one is a statistic. All of us are loved by our Creator and are inherently valuable. All have the right to be treated as a person and not a statistic. One of the saddest facts is how people go untreated because of financial concerns, and then end up in emergency rooms on the brink of death because by the time they receive help, their disease or illness has become catastrophic.

We know that when basic needs are met, it promotes healthy families, mental health improves, crime goes down and we thrive in safety. It is important to think this way. We need to envision what a healthy community looks like and strive to make that a reality in our own community.

The need for affordable health care is something that we, as people of faith, cannot turn away from, ignore or minimize. Neither should our senators. Jesus states that other than a tenacious and complete love of God, a good Christian should love thy neighbor as thyself. These are the two most important tenets of our faith.

The Social Justice Ministry of Shiloh Baptist Church, Stafford

 

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Appeal to Norment on expanding Medicaid fell on deaf ears

These days at our State Capitol, nothing evokes more heated debate than the topic of Medicaid expansion and its impact on our biennial budget. Hanging in the balance is the well-being of 400,000 Virginians who fall in the gap between our current Medicaid program and the Health Insurance Marketplace. While our representatives in the House of Delegates compromised to pass a bipartisan budget including Medicaid expansion, the Senate was unable to do the same, compelling Gov. Northam to call a special session, which began on April 11.

As a member of the Virginia Nurses Association, I share the conviction of my organization that all Virginians should have access to safe, affordable health care and that increasing the share of federal dollars allowable for our commonwealth’s Medicaid program is the best way to achieve that objective.

Recently, two Republican senators have announced their support for expansion, signaling potential progress on the issue.

As co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, my representative, Sen. Thomas K. Norment, has great influence over the continued momentum of that progress. He has not scheduled a meeting for that committee to work on the biennial budget until May 14. So I sought him out in an attempt to advocate for the most vulnerable in our communities.

Pointing out the House’s tightened work requirement for able-bodied recipients as an area of compromise, I hoped Sen. Norment might see a way to agree that a healthy workforce is a productive workforce. He conveyed his opinion that the work requirement was “a joke.” When I asked if he was really willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater, he told me he was “ready to throw out the whole (darn) tub!”

Medicaid Expansion is supported by the majority of voters, even in red districts such as ours. More than 4,600 constituents, Republicans and Democrats, would be affected.

Continuing to shine a light on the issue of increased access to health care for all Virginians is a priority. It is an issue upon which Gov. Northam campaigned and won, and it is supported by the majority of Virginians, as well as countless agencies and organizations including AARP Virginia, Bon Secours Virginia, League of Women Voters Virginia, National Alliance on Mental Health Virginia, Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, ARC of Virginia and the Virginia Nurses Association.

Expanding Medicaid to provide affordable healthcare to low-income wage earners, pregnant women, children, the disabled and elderly is fiscally responsible, would result in approximately 15,000 new jobs in health care and is simply the right thing to do for our neighbors in the commonwealth.

My senator’s tone was sarcastic and his language, at times, foul. It takes more than that to intimidate me or compel me to give up on a cause in which I so firmly believe.

Advocacy is not for the thin-skinned. However, as his constituent, I expected more from the Senate Majority Leader. I went to Sen. Norment to appeal to his better angels. Sadly, I found none.

Christine Payne, Williamsburg

 

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Play a metaphor for Virginia’s healthcare debate

Currently showing at Arena Stage in Washington is “Two Trains Running” by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson. Wilson knew that the story of Black Americans (and others left behind) needed to be told and accounted for if America were ever to uphold its promise.

The play’s title has been interpreted to refer to two trains or paths in life, one of harsh reality and despair with many barriers and no ultimate destination and the other of hopes and dreams fulfilled through social responsibility and opportunity.

In a metaphorical sense, Virginia for the last five years has been engaged in a contentious debate over whether to run two trains when it comes to access to healthcare and the expansion of Medicaid. At present up to 400,000 of our fellow Virginians are on a train to nowhere while the rest of us are on a train to somewhere.

As Christians, we personally believe that Medicaid expansion should be an article of faith, not a political calculation. The second greatest commandment is to love others as we would ourselves.

As United Methodists, we also believe in our Social Principles, including Principle 162V that “healthcare is a basic human right” and that “providing the care…is a responsibility each person owes others and government owes to all, a responsibility that government ignores at its peril.”

And in a democracy, our duty to our neighbor merges with the duties assigned to our government as expressed in Luke 10:24-35 (parable of the Good Samaritan) and Ezekiel 34:4 (the responsibility of government). Recognizing such a duty, over 1,000 interfaith leaders in Virginia have signed an open letter to Virginia legislators asking them “to embrace the moral imperative to expand healthcare to all Virginians.”

We are all presently at the same train station. How many trains will be running?

William and Susanna Botts, Fredericksburg

 

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Letter to the editor, The Free Lance-Star, printed May 11, 2018

Adopting Medicaid expansion makes most sense for Virginia

In his April 29 opinion piece favoring Medicaid expansion [Expanding Medicaid makes financial sense], Mike McDermott makes a reasoned and common sense appeal for the commonwealth to adopt this program to benefit anywhere from 300,000 to 400,000 uninsured Virginians.

And I agree.

Many state legislators who oppose Medicaid expansion argue it would cover “healthy, working-age adults.” The state already covers people with disabilities, older adults and people with low incomes, so it seems they are implying that Medicaid expansion would cover healthy adults who will not work.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Medicaid expansion would cover working Virginians who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to afford private heath insurance. We know these folks. They are in our family, church and community. They are us. They often work two or three jobs with no benefits. They are single parents who must choose between paying rent, buying food and going to the doctor.

So yes, Medicaid expansion would cover “healthy working age adults” by providing health care to keep them healthy and in the workforce.

Medicaid is a source of revenue for the states. Virginia has left millions of dollars that would benefit uninsured Virginians on the table, while the commonwealth ranks 46 out of 50 states in per-capita Medicaid spending as of 2017 (according to the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission chaired by Del. Bobby Orrock). This does not make sense.

Adopting Medicaid expansion, even with the proposed hospital assessment (to cover the remaining 10 percent) makes sense for our economy and the commonwealth as a whole. The cost to hospitals and the rest of us are minuscule compared to the cost of uncompensated care.

Belinda Mattos, Fredericksburg