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Medicaid Expansion Advocates Rally in Richmond

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Advocates for expanding Medicaid in Virginia spoke in Richmond Wednesday. They say expansion could save the state money and create jobs.

Supporters oppose Governor Bob McDonnell's decision not to expand the jointly funded program in the commonwealth, which would provide health coverage to an additional 400,000 Virginians. Under the federal Affordable Care Act, the federal government would cover 100 percent of the costs of expansion for the first three years, phasing down to 90 percent after that.

Medicaid expansion advocates say that would bring in billions in federal funds, and cover programs the state currently pays for.

"So there's very real savings in areas of our state budget that provide services for the uninsured that we would not be paying for with federal dollars," said Michael Cassidy, president of The Commonwealth Institute, a left-leaning fiscal analysis firm.

McDonnell and Republican leaders have been skeptical of expanding Medicaid coverage in the state. They say dramatic Medicaid reform is needed to allow better state management, and worry Washington will not be able to follow through on its share of the fund required to expand the program.


Virginia Poverty Law Center

Local Leaders, Health Care Advocates Urge Expanding Coverage to Uninsured Cost of Medicaid Expansion more than offset by savings; polling shows support.

RICHMOND -- A diverse coalition of health care advocates and business leaders is pressing legislators to accept federal money to extend health insurance benefits to thousands of low-income Virginians by expanding the public insurance program known as Medicaid.

The Healthcare for All Virginians coalition says extending Medicaid benefits to up to 400,000 uninsured people would save the state money, bring in billions in federal dollars and support 30,000 jobs.

"We have the opportunity to significantly reduce the number of uninsured Virginians, draw down over $20 billion in federal funds and make the Medicaid expansion pay for itself because there are services we pay for with state funds that will now be paid for with federal Medicaid funds," says Michael Cassidy, President of The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis.

According to analysis by the Institute, expanding Medicaid coverage would generate savings and new revenue that is twice the state's contribution to the expansion over the next eight years. Low-wage and uninsured workers in some of the state's biggest industries — tourism, retail, education, health services — have the most to gain, because their health care will be paid for.

The Institute's findings also show that the expansion money would give a much-needed boost to the economy, supporting close to 30,000 jobs and providing about $85 million in new tax revenue per year. Expanding Medicaid also is popular with voters. Polling conducted by AARP in November 2012 shows a majority of Virginians support the Medicaid expansion.

According to Bill Kallio, Virginia AARP director, 65 percent of voters aged 50 and older support the expansion.

"The vast majorities of voters view Medicaid as important and generally are not looking to cut back on spending or coverage for the poor," Kallio said.

The HAV coalition comprises more than 50 Virginia organizations and has worked together for several years to advocate for accessible and affordable quality health care for all Virginians.

According to Jill Hanken, health law attorney at the Virginia Poverty Law Center and spokesperson for the group, the Medicaid expansion is the group's "number one priority" for 2013. She said the diverse range of organizations includes doctors, nurses, hospitals, religious groups, health service providers, consumer health groups and advocates.

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