A picture of Representative Gerald E. Connolly
Gerald C.
Democrat VA 11

About Rep. Gerald
  • Medicaid Expansion

    by Representative Gerald E. Connolly

    Posted on 2013-02-05

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    CONNOLLY. Mr. Speaker, I can't resist saying the Second Amendment right does not preclude background checks to protect the very people we represent.

    Mr. Speaker, the Supreme Court ruling last summer on the Affordable Care Act was a victory for all American families--and small businesses especially--by ensuring that our constituents have access to affordable, quality health insurance.

    The ruling preserved the integrity of Medicaid partnerships between the States and the Federal Government, giving Governors the option of accepting the Federal Government's generous offer to pay the cost for expanding coverage of low-income residents who might otherwise not have access to health insurance.

    Though some of my Republican colleagues remain opposed to the act, I'm pleased to see Republican Governors, including those from Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, and now Governor Kasich in Ohio, putting policy ahead of politics to support this expansion of Medicaid. Those Governors have acknowledged that they were motivated not only by the desire to reduce the number of uninsured, but also by the compelling business case.

    Medicaid expansion is part of the vision for a new continuum of coverage that will begin in 2014, when the major provisions from the Affordable Care Act take effect. This will fill the longstanding gap in Medicaid coverage for low-income adults by expanding eligibility for those earning up to 133 percent of the Federal poverty level.

    As of 2011, there were 48 million nonelderly uninsured in America. As an incentive for States to expand coverage for those folks, the ACA commits the Federal Government to paying 100 percent of the additional costs of covering them, and after 2016, 90 percent thereafter.

    I wrote the Republican Governor of my State and the General Assembly membership urging them to join us in extending this critical health care coverage. The Virginia General Assembly is currently divided on the matter, but I was encouraged last week by the announcement from our Republican Lieutenant Governor, who said: There is no State better prepared to move forward with this reform and the coverage expansion of it than the Commonwealth of Virginia.

    Like me, Lieutenant Governor Bolling understands the economic benefits for Virginia. Expanding Medicaid will help 300,000 Virginians get access to health care coverage who currently have none and invariably wind up accessing health care through the most expensive portal there is: the emergency room. The cost of that uncompensated care is, of course, borne today by hospitals and those who are insured through their premiums.

    The Governor's Advisory Commission on Health Reform said expanding Medicaid, coupled with other reforms in the act, would reduce uncompensated care in Virginia by more than half. Under the Affordable Care Act, Virginia would receive more than $9.2 billion in the first 5 years. A recent State analysis shows that during that same time period Virginia would actually save $300 million by expanding coverage. And Virginia's costs for the first 10 years, now estimated at $137 million, are considerably less than originally estimated and a great return on that investment.

    Time is running out, and our residents cannot afford for States to miss this opportunity. In fact, I believe they would be making such a historic mistake that I am proposing an additional incentive to help motivate those Governors who might not yet still be convinced.

    This week I introduced the Medicaid Expansion Incentive Act. This simple bill adds a ``use it or lose it'' provision. If a State doesn't want to expand Medicaid coverage, then we will ship those dollars to other States who are willing to partner with us to help defray costs and expand their coverage.

    {time} 1040 Just so the residents of a particular State are fully aware of how their Governor's decision is affecting them, my bill will require HHS to publicize the list of States that are not partnering with us and giving up this opportunity and the amount of money their Governor has left on the table and the number of uninsured people who will thereby not be covered.

    The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, and residents of any State should not be penalized because of their Governor's ideological agenda. The choices we face are momentous. Will we move forward together to implement these historic reforms and reverse the unsustainable trajectory of spiraling prices, or will we let slip this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help those most in need, realize savings, and spur economic activity? I hope more Republican Governors, including my own, will follow the leader of their colleagues elsewhere and put their citizens' health ahead of partisan orthodoxy.


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