By Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin
As your governor, it's my job to ask the tough questions on complex issues. One of the most complex issues we've dealt with since I took office is Medicaid expansion. For more than a year, I have asked many questions, diligently sought answers, researched options, and closely analyzed the Supreme Court ruling regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Although we do not agree with every provision of the Act, I worked hard to find the best approach for West Virginia.
Throughout this long process, my goal has been to do what is best for all West Virginians. Members of my administration, community leaders, health care experts and many West Virginians have reached out to me during this process. I've done all the research and listened to all the concerns, and I believe expanding Medicaid is the best choice for West Virginia.
By expanding Medicaid, we are helping working West Virginians receive affordable, preventative health care. We anticipate the expansion will allow us to provide insurance coverage to approximately 91,500 working West Virginians, significantly reducing the number of uninsured West Virginians. In a state where heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions occur at levels far too high, this expansion has the potential to provide meaningful improvements to the health of our citizens. We will also require personal responsibility for Medicaid participants by mandating co-pays, much like private insurance.
There are costs associated with this expansion. For the first few years, the federal government will cover almost all costs, and in the long-term the federal government will provide almost nine dollars for every dollar we spend. There's no doubt this is a lot of money. But if we made the decision not to expand, the cost would be significant-for our families, our businesses, and the health of our state. In fact, our tax dollars would pour into other states that expand while our businesses would be subject to additional taxes and our hospitals would lose significant financial resources. And most importantly, our people wouldn't have the health care they need.
This decision is merely the beginning of this process. There's much to do before enrollment opens in October followed by coverage that's scheduled to begin in January. In the coming months, we will continue share with you how this process will unfold as there remains a number of issues to be addressed by the federal government. But I want all West Virginians to know my administration will continue to ask questions, obtain information, and make sure we are doing what is right for the people of West Virginia.