Augusta Health has expressed support for the Medicaid expansion in Virginia as shared by CEO and president Mary Mannix in the Staunton News Leader:
The gap in health insurance coverage created by the Affordable Care Act has left thousands of people in our community without access to affordable coverage. The people who find themselves in this difficult situation aren’t looking for a handout. They are working people, but because Virginia hasn’t expanded Medicaid they make too much to qualify for the existing Medicaid program and too little to qualify for subsidies through the new federal exchange.Noting that the hospital is for fiscal responsibility in the Medicaid issue when it comes to an in-depth audit and cost-effective measures, Mannix went on to warn:
This coverage gap is not only a source of hardship for our uninsured patients; it also puts an enormous financial strain on our hospital. The ACA eliminates $300 million a year in federal payments to Virginia hospitals to help us treat uninsured patients. Those cuts were supposed to be offset by Medicaid expansion, which would reduce the number of uninsured patients. But without Medicaid expansion or some alternative “Virginia way” of drawing down our federal tax dollars that we’ve already paid to cover the people in “the gap,” Augusta Health and hospitals around Virginia will continue to pay 100 percent of the cost to care for uninsured patients who come through our doors.
That’s a huge financial burden for our hospital, and it will force us to rethink the services we provide to all of our patients – insured or otherwise. It also drives up the cost of care for everyone.
Hospitals cannot wait two years for a legislative study on these reforms before expanding Medicaid. The damage to our financial health, the health of our community and the economy will be too great by then. There is no reason that we cannot continue to improve the system while we cover those who are now uninsured. Hospitals are treating uninsured patients right now; the financial strain is right now. We need to find a path forward this year to draw down some of the nearly $1 billion Virginia taxpayers already paid in Affordable Care Act taxes, fees and cuts. We need our legislators to understand the urgency of this issue. That message must get through. We know the Virginia General Assembly didn’t create this problem, but we are depending on them to find a solution, and we want to work with them without delay.She met a partial ally with the Waynesboro News-Virginian when it recently editorialized:
As we've mentioned before, we're not against the idea of expanding the Medicaid program in Virginia. In Sunday's edition of the News Virginian, readers saw that Augusta Health alone spent $40 million over the last year, caring for the uninsured. If the bill was lower, Augusta Health officials indicated they wouldn't be as cautious in their own expansion plans. That would possibly translate into more jobs and a stronger local economy. Augusta County taxpayers would also see a benefit from Medicaid expansion, as we highlighted in that same article. Lower costs for emergency transportation means money that could be used elsewhere, possibly on needed school repairs.However, the editorial continued with a cautionary note:
But there has to be a long range plan. Simply expanding Medicaid coverage helps now, with the federal government handling 100 percent of the bill. But three years from now, that drops down to 90 percent. Before we sign off on expanding Virginia's Medicaid system, we need to know how the state is going to plan for that. If McAuliffe plans to be in office for a second term, those expanded Medicaid costs will have to factor in his future budgets. Why not budget for them now and erase the uncertainty, before expanding the program?Even as the Governor travels the state to talk about Medicaid expansion, legislators in Richmond appear ready to battle it out, with the Richmond Times-Dispatch writing, "The battle of the budget ended Wednesday as it began: locked horns over Medicaid and expansion of health insurance coverage for the poor."
Simply approving expansion isn't an answer. It's a quick fix. Rather than changing the rules while the game's still being played, we suggest the governor slows down a bit and lets the General Assembly play out the second half.
Governor McAuliffe's visit is scheduled for 2:00 Saturday afternoon.