Health Care for All – Week 6

Tell Legislators to Fully Fund Medicaid 

By Kim Jones, Coordinator, Health Care for All WV 

       Chances are many people you know and love get their medical coverage through Medicaid. Over 500,000 West Virginians do! Medicaid covers basic medical care, prescriptions, office visits, mental healthcare, recovery programs, dental care, home healthcare for the elderly and preventive care for some of our most vulnerable people. The program covers 50 percent of pregnancies and births. And over 50 percent of our children are covered through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Adults and children with developmental disabilities have speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy, behavioral therapy, respite care, vocational training and other services covered through the Medicaid Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Waiver (I/DD Waiver). 

       Besides direct services, Medicaid brings federal funds into the state that strengthen and finance the structures of our health system. See this article for some of the ways our hospitals, clinics and healthcare workforce are reliant on the program. 

       Medicaid is a federal and state partnership. What we spend in the state is matched by the federal government, depending on the service, between 3 and 9 times what the state spends. So if we spend less, we get less funding for all of these vital services and investment in our health infrastructure. The question is, why would our legislature take steps to spend less state money and draw down way less federal funding for our people? 

       Numerous bills were introduced to do just that this week. HB 5557 would try again to bring the expensive bureaucracy of work requirements to our folks. Arkansas forced this sort of red tape on their citizens and a quarter of their eligible people lost their health coverage in six months. And people who are financially eligible for Medicaid are ineligible for getting coverage through the Affordable Care Act, which left most of those people without any options for health coverage. 

       When people lose their health insurance, it puts a huge cost burden on hospitals and clinics, which will not be paid for services provided to uninsured people needing care. Is that how the legislature of West Virginia wants to deal with their self-made Medicaid budget shortfall? 

       HB 5686 would create a board to find ways to cut spending and kick people out of the program. And HB 5683 would add premiums and cost sharing to West Virginians who smoke. 

       These are all terrible ideas that reflect the priorities of some lawmakers, who feel that scrimping on healthcare in a state where 17 percent of people live in poverty is a viable option. Please call them and tell them to fund Medicaid fully, and not sacrifice the health of our children and families to balance the budget. Find your legislators by clicking here and entering your address.

       It is week six of the 2024 legislative session and we have seen dozens of bills that affect healthcare and social determinants of health for the people in our state. At least 20 of those bills are focused on undoing West Virginia’s great track record on childhood immunizations. The Anti-Vax movement, with many of their misinformative bills being written by advocacy organizations outside of the state, are a danger to our kids and public health. 

       As we see measles outbreaks happening again, not just in the United States, but in other developed countries, the World Health Organization said this about trends to skip immunizations in children: “Measles, because of its high transmissibility, acts as a “canary in the coalmine”, quickly exposing any immunity gaps in the population. Still, 22 million children missed their routine first dose of measles vaccine in 2022, compared to 19 million in 2019.” 

Please see this article for more and contact your legislators and let them know that these bills would be a big step in the wrong direction in protecting our health.

       A few other bills we are watching include HB 4933, which allows Medicaid recipients to get dentures without using their basic dental benefit, which isn’t enough to cover dentures. HB 4933 passed the House and is waiting to be taken up by Senate Health. 

       SB 614 allows students as young as 5 years old to be removed from the classroom for disruptive behaviors. This bill comes with no funding for interventions, and many people believe it will do more harm than good to our children, as well as their families who could be subject to police action if they can’t get to the school to pick the child up, as the child will be unable to ride the school bus home. Take action and tell your delegate to oppose the bill here

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