RICHMOND, Va. – By not expanding Medicaid to cover working poor adults, Virginia also is shortchanging thousands of children, according to a new study.
Georgetown researchers looked at families in the coverage gap, making too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford insurance on the federal exchange. They found a third of the adults are parents with dependent children, and nearly two thirds of those parents work outside the home.
Widow Melyssa Dove of Culpepper says her lack of insurance makes the financial situation for her and her three young sons particularly fragile. She says she ended up with a big emergency-room bill when she got sick last summer.
“That bill is unresolved,” says Dove. “I’ve gone through the hospital system trying to get help, and so it’s very frustrating. It’s been very frustrating dealing with the system.”
According to the study, children can be all but locked out of the health-care system if their parents don’t have insurance and getting their parents insured can improve the children’s health care and quality of life.
In much of the country, the portion of children with access to the health-care system has increased sharply since the passage of the Affordable Care Act. But while Virginia was once a leader in that, the portion in the state actually has fallen a little. Ashley Everette is a policy analyst with Voices for Virginia’s Children.
“While many other states saw decreases in the rate of uninsured kids, Virginia’s rate has worsened,” says Everette. “We also know when parents are uninsured, their ability to care for their kids and provide financially can be compromised.”
Currently about 100,000 Virginia children lack health insurance. Medicaid expansion would cover 400,000 adults, and likely bring thousands of the children into the system as well.
For Dove, insurance issues make it harder for her while she finishes her nursing degree. She says some years ago she survived thyroid cancer, but now she can barely afford the thyroid medicine she needs let alone tests her doctors say she should have.
“Am I going to have the scans and rack up a $6,000 hospital bill? Or am I just going to hope I’m OK,” she says. “You cross your fingers and say, ‘I hope I don’t get sick.'”