Mr. Speaker, ladies and gentlemen of the House, I rise today in support of the new Governor’s efforts to assist some 400,000 Virginians who do not presently have health insurance.
In the Governor’s recent address to this joint assembly, he made a strong business case for why it is in our economic interest to find a way to insure more Virginians. He also stressed the importance of reform while complimenting the efforts of the MIRC, Governor McDonnell, and Secretary Hazel for all of their efforts to bend the cost curve on Medicaid and to provide services that work better and cost less.
Sometimes in this Chamber, we can be so focused on political differences that we lose track of some the things we can do together. We know that many of our citizens have great need. Over one million Virginians remain uninsured. Of those who receive some kind of Medicaid benefit… half are children, and another 260,000 are blind, elderly, or disabled.
Medicaid is hardly a treasure trove of riches for those who receive its benefits. We rank 48th among the states in spending per capita and our reimbursement rates for medical providers and hospitals are low. Nonetheless, it provides some level of assistance for those most in need. As you know, the state presently pays one-half the cost and the federal government pays the other half.
Most of us agree that reforms in Medicaid are necessary, and if you go to the MIRC website, you will be impressed with what has already occurred in Virginia. And we will need to do more because true reform is a continuous process; if we want an efficient government that works better and costs less, we need to continually push for reform. We will talk on future days about these reforms. But for today let us focus on what is before us.
As we discuss our options for this session, perhaps we can ask ourselves some critical questions.
- Why wouldn’t we, for example, want to cover another 400,000 Virginians, many of whom work and all of whom are our friends and neighbors, who do not have insurance at present?
- Why wouldn’t we want to lessen financial impacts on our hospitals and their ERs so that they may retain their viability, both as economic engines in their communities, and as job providers and creators for our citizens? These hospitals already provide substantial assistance in the form of indigent care – and they need our help.
- Why wouldn’t we want to create as many new jobs as possible by investments in health care that can help our citizens? It is estimated that we can create 30,000 new jobs if we find a way.
- And why wouldn’t we want to keep Virginia taxpayer dollars working for us in our state rather than having them sending them to other parts of the country?
Many of us would like to find a way – A Virginia Way – to make these things happen. And I would submit that this Virginia Way will involve building on the reforms of the MIRC in order that we can bend the cost curve and not subject Medicaid to an unsustainable future.
I wish to use several illustrations to point out some of the key issues that we face in this session.
First, few will dispute that Virginia taxpayer dollars are being sent to Washington and reprogramed into some 25 states who have decided to expand insurance coverage to their citizens in need. This map shows where these monies are going –to New York, California, Arizona, Iowa, & Connecticut. These are our taxpayers’ dollars — our money; why wouldn’t we want to bring it back so that they can work for our citizens?
This graphic shows what we are losing each day by choosing not to extend these insurance benefits to our friends and neighbors. It is commonly understood that five million dollars per day is being lost. Already in 2014, we have rejected some $75 million dollars and it will increase every day. We are essentially creating a sea of red ink of our own device.
There is much more to be said about this issue – and it will be said in the days and weeks ahead. There are reforms to discuss, implications to be considered, and common ground to be plowed. If we remain open to all options, we will find that way – that Virginia Way – to help our citizens and our communities address these needs, to stimulate our economies, and protect our citizens.