Congressman Gerry Connolly has reiterated his call for the Virginia General Assembly to take action to accept the Medicaid expansion provisions of the Affordable Care Act, noting that the Commonwealth will make "a costly and historic mistake" if it opts out of the program.
"Time is running out for the General Assembly. Our state leaders need to put policy decisions ahead of political posturing for the good of the Commonwealth and its citizens," Connolly said.
Last July, Connolly wrote to Governor McDonnell and state legislative leaders urging the Commonwealth of Virginia to participate in the program. Connolly said Virginia stands to lose more than $9.2 billion in federal funds over the first five years of the new law if it opts out of the provision that expands Medicaid to individuals and families with incomes up to 133 percent of the poverty level ($14,856 for an individual; $30,656 for a family of four).
"Our state stands to receive $17 in federal funds for every state dollar it spends on its Medicaid expansion program," Connolly said. The first three years are completely funded by the federal government and thereafter the state's share will never exceed 10 percent of the expansion cost. "Anyway you look at it, this is a good investment from a financial standpoint and in terms of the health of all Virginians."
Connolly is introducing legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that would allow funds designated for a particular state that opts out of the program to be transferred to other states to further enhance their Medicaid programs. "In essence, my bill says "use it or lose it,' and benefits those states that participate," Connolly said.
Connolly said the state's refusal to be included in the program would deny health insurance coverage to a quarter-million Virginians and force them to seek costly primary medical care at the most expensive point of entry - hospital emergency rooms.
In his July 11, 2012 letter, Connolly cited data prepared by Governor McDonnell's own advisory council showing medical care for the uninsured burdens Virginia's government, families, businesses, and hospitals with $1.65 billion a year in uncompensated costs. ACA reforms, including Medicare expansion, would reduce those uncompensated care costs by $860 million per year, according to the Virginia Health Reform Initiative Advisory Council, created last year by the Governor to assist in planning the implementation of the ACA.
He also referenced June 28 comments by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, a conservative Republican, who said, "No state can afford to opt out. There's no state in its right mind that wouldn't take the money, because they're going to have all those additional people they're going to have to care for." And Connolly's letter also quoted the Kaiser Family Foundation, which reported, "States will have relatively small increases in state spending, but these will be swamped by the new federal dollars that they will receive because of this reform."
"This influx of new federal dollars into states that participate in the Medicaid expansion will reduce the number of uninsured, create jobs, and slash uncompensated care costs," Connolly said. "I urge you to consider carefully the serious ramifications of opting out, including billions in lost federal funds and spiraling costs to Virginia's taxpayers, families, businesses, and medical providers."