Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has come out strongly in favor of Medicaid expansion. Citing the economic benefits of Medicaid expansion, the Governor has called on the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission (MIRC) to complete its work and vote to expand Medicaid by March or grant the governor the right to expand Medicaid. Meanwhile, the Virginia State Senate is working on an alternative proposal to expand Medicaid by using Medicaid money to buy private health insurance for Medicaid recipients. The Virginia House of Delegates is remaining adamantly opposed to Medicaid expansion in any form. The debate over expansion will play out in the voting on the state budget. The Governor, the State Senate and the State House of Delegates must eventually agree on a budget. It will likely be the very end of the session (early March) before an agreement is reached.
Our lobbying was successful because we were able to bring some of the unique concerns of small businesses to the debate over health care reform. On Medicaid expansion, some of the small business owners who provide health insurance could talk about the thousands of dollars they will save if Virginia expands Medicaid while others were able to talk about the value of employees getting coverage through expansion even though the owner cannot afford the coverage. All of the owners were able to talk about the general economic value of Medicaid expansion, since everyone agrees that expansion will create at least 30,000 new jobs in Virginia.
Two new studies recently came out on the economics of Medicaid expansion. In the first, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association finds that expanding Medicaid will add $2.4 billion to the income of Virginia hospitals, even deducting for higher taxes and cuts in reimbursement rates. In the second, the tax firm Jackson-Hewitt estimates that Virginia’s businesses will pay at least $42 million in extra taxes and fees in 2015 if the state has not expanded Medicaid.
Open enrollment on the Health Insurance Marketplace continues until March 31, 2014. Tax credits are available to anyone earning less than 400 percent of the poverty level. The penalty for an individual not having insurance kicks in if a person goes without insurance for more than three months of a year. The Obama administration has announced that if folks have purchased insurance by March 31, and keep it all year, they will not be fined even though their coverage might not begin until April 15. Healthcare.gov is the website and 1-800-318-2596 is the phone number.
In addition to the help that anyone under 400 percent of the poverty line will get to buy health insurance, there is also a provision of health care reform that also helps people under 250 percent of the poverty line with co-pays and other out-of-pocket expenses.
The Virginia General Assembly will meet from now until March 8 in Richmond. While Medicaid expansion will be a major issue, it will not be the only health care reform legislation considered. We know that the General Assembly will discuss setting up a state-based Health Insurance Marketplace, and other legislation may be introduced as well.
The federal government has a new website dedicated just to helping businesses understand health care reform. The site http://business.usa.gov/
These updates are a service of Virginia Organizing. Contact Bob Becker at 804-937-0752 or reply to this email with questions or comments. Feel free to forward these updates!