The Affordable Care Act has faced near constant opposition from Republicans since it was signed into law by President Obama in 2010. Opponents have mounted legal challenges, numerous political campaigns, and even orchestrated the government shutdown last fall to prevent the expansion of quality, affordable health care to 32 million Americans.
Virginia’s own former Attorney General filed suit against the federal government to stop the Affordable Care Act in Virginia. Luckily, despite these efforts, over 8 million people were able to sign up for healthcare coverage through state-based exchanges during the first enrollment period, 3 million young adults were able to stay on their parents plan, and over five million Americans signed up directly for private insurance.
Sadly, 400,000 eligible Virginians will still be denied access to care because of partisan politics. Without Medicaid expansion, Virginian families and individuals that fall between 100 and 133 percent of the poverty line are left without access to insurance. One worried mother called my office recently, frustrated that her working 27-year-old son earned too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to qualify for help to buy private coverage in the Marketplace. He was left in the Medicaid expansion gap, vulnerable without coverage.
Hard working Virginians are paying for Medicaid expansion through their paycheck every month. If not for hard line Republicans in Richmond, we would be seeing a return on that investment. Instead, our taxes are being used to provide the very same federal support for the states that have expanded Medicaid.
I want to highlight that quality, affordable healthcare doesn’t have to be a partisan issue. A number of states, like Arkansas, Arizona, Iowa, and even North Dakota, have Republican governors or state assemblies yet supported Medicaid expansion because it was right for their citizens.
Medicaid expansion is a smart investment for Virginia. Not only are we already paying into this vital program, but it is estimated to save the state approximately $600 million over the next eight years. Our hospitals and clinics would no longer be financially at risk for the losses they incur from treating patients who don’t qualify for Medicaid now. But Virginia Republicans have indicated they would rather deny care over an ideological anti-Obama agenda than help our neediest citizens.
This is health care the people of Virginia need and have already paid for. I hope my colleagues in Richmond do what’s best and right for their constituents, their neighbors, their veterans and Virginia.