The Times West Virginian

Opinion

May 5, 2013

Need doesn’t go away during debate about state Medicaid expansion

The debate — fierce at times — is under way.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced Thursday that West Virginia will expand Medicaid under the federal health care overhaul, which would extend coverage to an estimated additional 91,500 uninsured, low-income residents.

The federal government has pledged to cover the entire cost for the first three years of the program. West Virginia gradually pays for a portion starting in 2017, peaking at 10 percent in 2020 and every year thereafter.

A financial analysis concluded that more than $5 billion in promised federal funds will cover nearly all of the resulting costs over the next decade. The report also calculates that West Virginia’s share of the burden during that time will increase by $375 million.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act greatly expands public health care coverage. Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the act was constitutional, but mandating states to expand Medicaid coverage was not.

Tomblin was one of just two Democratic governors who had yet to choose whether to expand Medicaid, leaving Gov. Steve Beshear of neighboring Kentucky as the party’s last holdout. Seven Republican governors have pushed to expand Medicaid, including Ohio’s John Kasich. All told, 22 states and the District of Columbia are moving to expand Medicaid, while 14 have decided against it.

The federal law calls on states to extend Medicaid benefits to people who make less than 138 percent of the federal poverty line. That’s about $32,499 for a family of four. With one of the strictest limits among states, West Virginia now bars adults from enrolling if their household earns just one-fourth of that — $8,240 for a family of four.

The state Republican Party and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican, strongly criticized the expansion.

GOP Chairman Conrad Lucas, the Charleston Daily Mail reported, questioned whether the state could afford the change.

“While paying for the state’s portion of this expansion will be daunting enough today, does anyone really believe that the federal government will maintain its same level of Medicaid funding in the future when it is staring at a $16 trillion debt and desperately needs to reduce spending?” Morrisey, a vocal opponent of the federal health care overhaul, said in a press release.

Democrats, meanwhile, defended Tomlin’s position.

“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 by day, to be able to see a doctor or nurse when they are sick,” said Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia’s senior senator.

United Health System President and CEO Tom Jones, meanwhile, cited how hospitals nationwide will lose $155 billion in federal payments over the next 10 years.

“This expansion of Medicaid in West Virginia will replace a significant portion of those cuts, and keep West Virginia hospitals financially healthy to serve our citizens,” Jones said at Thursday’s announcement.

We believe Tomblin made the correct decision to go forward with Medicaid expansion.

As noted, for the next three years there is a commitment in place for the federal government to pick up 100 percent of the added costs.

As Tomblin said, the decision can be revisited after those three years are up.

It’s also important to realize that during the debate over how health care costs are paid, the need doesn’t go away.

That has meant the inefficiency and expense of continual visits to the emergency room, delayed or insufficient treatment resulting in sicker patients, uncompensated care that batters budgets of health care facilities, and patients and families forced into bankruptcy by medical costs they have no chance to repay.

“We have to understand that there’s a considerable amount of uncompensated care that’s provided in our state and that, at the end of the day, the private sector and the taxpayer pay for that,” Dr. Christopher Plein, interim director of the School of Social Work at West Virginia University, said in an interview with West Virginia Public Radio. “If folks could get into a health care system, be in a managed-care system for example or a medical home, then ideally there will be less utilization of emergency rooms and more utilization of preventative care, wellness and regular primary care.”

No one believes the early years of health care reform will be smooth. We hope, though, it can be more than a time for political battle as we come to grip with the fact that care is not “free” but we don’t say “tough luck” to the poorest and sickest among us.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Why should IRS employees having compliance issues receive rewards?

    There are certain issues that happen in our government that occur with no rhyme nor reason and probably raise the eyebrows of many thousands — let’s make that millions — of Americans who wonder about the same thing. It certainly corrodes the faith of the American people.

    April 25, 2014

  • Laws to keep mudslinging to minimum can stife free speech

    By nature, and by profession, we do not like lies. As journalists, we’re truth tellers. Or at least we attempt to get at the truth through research, attribution, documents and comments from people on either side of an issue.
    Sometimes it ends up with “telling lies from both sides,” as a crusty reporter once mused a handful of years ago.

    April 24, 2014

  • COLUMN: Freedom of Information — if you can pay

    Several years ago, I made a Freedom of Information request to a local government agency. Within the five business days, as required by law, a packet of information was delivered to the office. I expected a bill, as most government offices have a charge that ranges from 25 cents to $1.25 per page for copies of the documents we request.

    April 20, 2014

  • The reassuring spirit of Easter: One of new hope and beginnings

    During the sub-zero and snow-filled months of winter, we maintained a spirit of hope that spring was on the way. It has now become a reality as all nature stretches and yawns and awakens once more to a new beginning. The fragrance of spring awakens our waiting nostrils, the budding beauty of new life brightens our eyes, and the reassuring idea of renewal stimulates our minds.

    April 20, 2014

  • Unsung heroes handling calls in emergencies are appreciated

    Thankfully, we live in a community where help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, just by dialing three numbers — 9-1-1.
    During this week, which is recognized as National Public Safety Tele-Communicator’s Week nationwide, we need to remember that on the other end of that line are the men and women here in this county who are always there in case of accident, crimes, medical emergencies and any other catastrophic event.

    April 18, 2014

  • Message to ‘buckle up and park the phone’ is saving lives

    A figure that we haven’t seen that much in recent years is the highway death toll for a given period.
    Is the death toll up, down or just about the same as it was?
    The West Virginia Southern Regional Highway Safety Program has announced there were 325 highway fatalities in 2013, the second-lowest number on record.

    April 17, 2014

  • State native Burwell can ‘deliver results’ as Health and Human Services secretary

    Sylvia Mathews Burwell might not be a name with which most people are immediately familiar.
    For the past year, she has run the budget office under President Barack Obama.
    Prior to that, she served as president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program and later the Wal-Mart Foundation.

    April 16, 2014

  • Marion scores well in recent health report but could do better

    When it comes to area-wide studies, especially on health, there’s usually good news and bad news.
    So was the recent report on the health of America’s counties released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently. The nationwide county study evaluated health outcomes and health factors, and ranked counties accordingly.

    April 13, 2014

  • COLUMN: ‘Instant’ news not always reliable

    Instant.
    That little word has a pretty big meaning. With origins that date back to the 15th century, it means urgent, current, immediate.
    But think about how that word has developed over the past few decades.
    Instant pudding. Instead of slaving over a hot stove for a few minutes, you can now pour cold milk and with a bit of stirring, instant pudding!

    April 13, 2014

  • Decision to be an organ donor can save lives

    Chelsea Clair watched as her father died waiting for a bone marrow transplant.
    So when she met Kyle Froelich at a car show in 2009 and heard about his struggles to find a kidney that would match his unique needs, she never hesitated to offer hers to the man she just met.

    April 11, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Politics
House Ads