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.
The debate — fierce at times — is under way.
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.
Marion scores well in recent health report but could do better
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That little word has a pretty big meaning. With origins that date back to the 15th century, it means urgent, current, immediate.
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Decision to be an organ donor can save lives
Chelsea Clair watched as her father died waiting for a bone marrow transplant.
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Volunteers continue to have priceless impact on community
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Marion County is full of volunteers.
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They assist nonprofit agencies.
They serve on boards and committees.
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Strong Fairmont General Hospital badly needed to serve our region
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When patients need the services of health-care professionals, having family and friends close at hand is often essential, and their presence may even lead to a better outcome.
COLUMN: Fairmont General Hospital vital part of community
There’s nothing better than holding a newborn baby. It gives you a little feeling that not only is everything right in the world, but this perfect little human represents hope of a future where things will be better than they are today.
I had that blessed opportunity to hold that hopeful future in my arms last week when I visited my dear friend Jen and her newborn son Tristan at Fairmont General Hospital.
Putting a cost on safety issue has been culprit in 13 traffic deaths
Would you believe that an item costing just 57 cents — less than the price of a can of pop — is being cited as the culprit in 13 traffic deaths?
A simple 57-cent item.
That’s how much fixing the fatal ignition switches that General Motors installed in new automobiles would have cost, and 13 lives would probably have been saved.
TextLimit app one more step in cutting down distracted driving
Every day in the United States, nine people are killed and more than 1,000 people are injured in vehicle accidents that involve distracted drivers.
That statistic comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which goes on to say that 69 percent of U.S. drivers between the ages of 18 and 64 reported that they had talked on their cellphone while driving within the 30 days before they were surveyed.
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