Senator Jay Rockefeller, one of the chief authors of the landmark health care reform law, today praised West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin's decision to expand Medicaid to cover 91,500 low-income, working West Virginians who are projected to enroll in the expanded program by 2018.
The Medicaid expansion is a major piece of the health care reform law as it will cover Americans who aren't currently eligible for Medicaid, but still can't afford to pay for private health insurance. Every $100 million in new federal Medicaid funding should create about 2,000 new jobs, $183 million in increased business activity, and $64 million in increased wages.
"The whole reason we fought so hard for health care reform was to finally find a way for every one of our fellow West Virginians -- and especially those who struggle to get by day to day -- to be able to see a doctor or nurse when they are sick," said Rockefeller. "Not in an expensive emergency room, but at a regular doctor's appointment, where a simple prescription or proper bandage can keep someone healthy and able to go to work or school. One out of every four West Virginians -- not strangers, but the men, women, and children we know from the playground, church, or the grocery store -- still do not have health insurance.
"Governor Tomblin has been working hard to close that gap because it affects everyone in this state in some way. And today I am so proud to stand with him to announce this enormous step forward. With the Governor's careful stewardship of our state budget, and the courage of his convictions, he is joining 22 other governors across the country plus the District of Columbia to help put an end to the uninsured. Medicaid is a lifeline for so many West Virginia families. It's affordable and efficient. It creates jobs and increases wages. Currently a quarter of West Virginians count on it. And by helping uninsured families get coverage, we reduce health care costs for everyone else. West Virginians deserve nothing less. Governor Tomblin's decision is based on the facts, and it's a good decision for West Virginia families."
Medicaid and the Health Care Reform Law
Medicaid is the nation's health insurance program for low-income individuals and families, which is jointly administered by the federal government and states. Medicaid already provides health coverage for 23 percent of West Virginians, including more than 400,000 low-income children, parents, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and seniors. Medicaid also currently covers long-term care services and supports for about 35 percent of West Virginia seniors and people who are disabled. And along with the Children's Health Insurance Program, Medicaid already covers 48 percent of children in West Virginia.
The health care reform law makes sure that low-income Americans who aren't currently eligible for Medicaid, but still can't afford to pay for private health insurance, are given an affordable option through the expansion of Medicaid. Specifically, the law expands Medicaid to people and families who make up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or individuals making less than $15,856 per year and families of four making less than $32,499 per year. Under the law, expanding Medicaid was a key factor for making care affordable to families and doing so at the least cost to states and the federal government. Half of the 32 million uninsured Americans who will get health insurance for the first time when the health care reform law is fully implemented next year, will get that coverage through the Medicaid expansion.
In June 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the Medicaid expansion as constitutional with an option for states to participate. If states decide not to implement this provision, this group of low-income individuals and families will not be able to access affordable coverage, and they will be forced to continue to receive care only through expensive emergency rooms, which in turn passes on the cost to everyone else.