A group of constituents from the Virginia House of Delegates’ 18th district met last week with the district’s Del. Michael J. Webert at the Warrenton Agricultural Extension office. Of all ages and from all walks of life, they came together to tell their representative in Richmond how lack of adequate health care is affecting them and to enlist his support for a solution.
They are among the district’s roughly 4,500 citizens who are in the “Medicaid Gap” — people whose income is too high for them to qualify for existing Medicaid programs, but who cannot afford the private insurance policies available to them under the Affordable Care Act without Virginia’s adoption of Medicaid expansion.
Virginia is among the 23 states whose legislatures have not yet accepted federal funds for expansion of existing state-run Medicaid programs to help their citizens obtain private insurance.
Individuals at the meeting told Webert that while they respect free clinics and other forms of “community-based health care” and their dedicated volunteer staffs, they don’t resolve their health care issues. They stressed these facilities do not have the resources to deal with patients who have long-term, chronic, serious illnesses.
They do not offer the diagnostic or treatment resources to which patients with insurance are routinely given access, and this can have tragic results. One woman in the group has to live with untreated lung cancer; another is going blind for want of simple cataract surgery and fears losing her job. Not even hospital emergency rooms or urgent care centers can address these needs.
Regular access to preventive health care and proper treatment is key to staying healthy longer and performing more productively in school and on the job. Discussion during the meeting bore this out as participants shared their stories about missing out on good employment opportunities due to an untreated, worsening medical condition or inability to work full-time. They feel the Commonwealth’s economy will benefit when all citizens have full access to needed health care and can get back to work. The Virginia Chamber of Commerce agrees.
Del. Webert listened intently to his constituents’ stories of their experiences in Virginia’s Medicaid Gap. He mentioned states in which insurance benefits appear to be working well for their citizens, specifically citing Florida and Indiana, and indicated that Virginia might be able to implement portions of their programs that appear to be working well.
He expressed the Republican Party’s concern, however, that future cutbacks in federal spending might reduce Virginia’s share of Medicaid Expansion funds, leaving the state’s citizens with less coverage. The group said this would actually be a tremendous improvement over having no coverage at all.
Webert alluded to alternative programs being explored in the General Assembly right now. The group seemed to react positively to this and encouraged their delegate to represent the immediate needs they expressed today when this issue is revisited during the General Assembly’s special session in September.
As I said to Webert at our meeting, the people in the Medicaid Gap need health care now. With federal funds already earmarked for Virginia — our own tax dollars — there is no need for our neighbors to suffer past September.
The 18th District encompasses all or part of Rappahannock, Culpeper, Fauquier and Warren counties, the city of Front Royal and dozens of smaller municipalities, both prosperous and impoverished.
Please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you see value in a similar delegate meeting anywhere in Virginia, or just find yourself in the Medicaid Gap.