Healthcare for All – Week 8

By Kim Jones, Coordinator, Health Care for All WV

       Medicaid has a butterfly effect that influences everything in West Virginia – our health, our health care system, hospitals, clinics, health care jobs and our economy. Besides the vital insurance coverage it provides to the people of the state, Medicaid is vital to West Virginia’s hospitals and providers. Our health care infrastructure is more heavily dependent on Medicaid than most other states. Scrimping on healthcare and rejecting the full support of federal funds is a disastrous plan.

       According to West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, “Medicaid is vital to West Virginia’s hospitals and providers, with research showing Medicaid expansion has resulted in reduced uncompensated care, increases in hospital operating margins, and decreases in closures of hospitals and obstetrics units. Medicaid improves hospital finances by extending coverage to patients who would otherwise be uninsured and require hospital charity or uncompensated care.”

       Medicaid is the largest source of federal funds for states. And Medicaid spending has a positive impact on state economies. With employment alone, the funds support the staff of hospitals, clinics, and wraparound services. This provides jobs and subsequent taxes that go back into the state revenue to support other state spending. Failing to fully fund Medicaid would rapidly result in the loss of over 5,000 jobs in West Virginia.

       Reducing state spending on Medicaid reduces the influx of these federal dollars into our economy. For every dollar West Virginia spends on Medicaid, we get nearly three dollars in federal funds. The program brings much more money into the state than we spend on it. And our economy is heavily reliant on those funds. 

       In an attempt to keep the state budget flat, some of our state legislators are looking for ways to cut state spending. And they are eyeing Medicaid spending. With West Virginia being ranked the most unhealthy state in the country by Forbes, this doesn’t seem like the right time to gamble with our healthcare.

       HB 5647 is a bill that will fully fund Medicaid by increasing the provider tax on the Managed Care Organizations. This plan is endorsed by Governor Justice and has already passed the House. The bill has been waiting to be put on the agenda for the Senate Finance Committee, and there are only a few days left of this legislative session. Please contact the members of Senate Finance and urge them to pass this bill.

       In other news, we are happy to report that HB 4933 passed and is on its way to the Governor. This bill will change the way the Medicaid dental benefit operates. The adult benefit would go from $1,000 a year to $2,000 every two years. This change was sought because dentures cost around $1,200 and people who needed them were unable to afford them in the same year. 

       Vaccinations Save Lives, and that is why we are very concerned about HB 5105. In a time when states all around us have loosened vaccination requirements, and are seeing measles outbreaks, some legislators in West Virginia seem to want to follow them down that dangerous road. This bill would allow for religious exemptions, exemptions in private and parochial schools, and public virtual schools. It is simply baffling that 57 delegates voted to pass this bill. Now it is in the hands of the Senate to risk the health of our children and communities to this science-denying cultural opinion. Please call your senators and tell them to put our health above the dubious goals of the anti-vax movement. 


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