By Pat Young
Published in the Roanoke Times, November 7, 2013
Healthy Roanoke Valley is a partnership of more than 50 public and private organizations, academic institutions, community and government leaders who are working to improve the health of those living in the Roanoke Valley.
Our mission is to mobilize community resources to improve access to care, coordination of services and to promote a culture of wellness. Our focus is on the underserved populations in the region, including the low-income, uninsured and underinsured.
In the Roanoke Metropolitan Statistical Area, including the counties of Botetourt, Craig, Franklin and Roanoke and the cities of Salem and Roanoke, more than 32,000 residents are uninsured. According to a recent Roanoke Community Health Needs Assessment, the uninsured in the valley are more likely to lack access to primary care, mental health and dental services and are unable to pay for these services out-of-pocket. They are more likely to use hospital emergency departments for minor injuries or illnesses that do not require emergency evaluation or treatment.
Often they are unable to navigate the health care system, have limited health literacy and have poor health outcomes due to lack of preventive care and chronic disease management.
By expanding Medicaid eligibility in Virginia up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, approximately 400,000 uninsured Virginians would become eligible for health care. Just to put it in perspective, this would include individuals who earn up to $15,800, or families of four up to $32,500 annually. The majority of people who would be newly eligible for Medicaid coverage are adults working in the state’s five largest employment sectors: tourism; retail trade; educational, health and social services; construction; and professional, scientific, management, administrative and waste management services.
In the Roanoke Valley, Medicaid expansion would impact 41 percent of the uninsured or more than 13,000 individuals.
On behalf of our many partners, Healthy Roanoke Valley has reached out to the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission members in support of Medicaid expansion in Virginia. Expansion will ensure those we serve are able to get quality, consistent care at a lower cost, resulting in improved health for our community as a whole. Medicaid expansion impacts our region and the state’s economic health by creating a healthier, more productive workforce, leading to growth in the state economy and a vibrant future for all our citizens.