Medicaid expansion to help working individuals in Virginia
Almost 60 percent of the 360,000 Virginians who would benefit from the state’s Medicaid expansion—roughly 212,000 residents—are working Virginians employed in occupations that most people rely on daily and are critical to the state’s economy, says a report released today by Virginia Organizing and Families USA.
These working Virginians are employed in industries ranging from food service and construction to the medical and retail sectors, and are employed as home health aides, child care workers, cashiers, clerks and janitors. Although these Virginians work in widely diverse jobs, the report says, they have one thing in common—they don’t make enough money to afford health coverage.
Of the roughly 41 percent of the Virginians who are not working and who would be eligible for access to quality, affordable health care under a Medicaid expansion, more than half (22 percent) are adults termed “not in the workforce;” these include students, non-working spouses, people with disabilities, and people who have left the workforce. Together with the working Virginians, they make up about 81 percent of those Virginians who would gain access to health coverage.
Through an expansion of Medicaid, Virginia could provide health coverage to residents with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $27,310 for a family of three in 2014. Currently, Virginia’s Medicaid program sets an annual income eligibility ceiling of $10,290 for a family of three. Under Virginia’s program, there is not a single dollar of assistance for health care to families without dependent children, regardless of how low their income may be.
The working majority, 212,000 uninsured Virginians, are employed as follows:
· 33,000 people employed as food service workers in such jobs as fast food workers, cooks and waitresses.
· 29,000 in construction jobs—carpenters, painters, laborers, and more.
· 27,000 in sales, working as cashiers, retail salespeople, and travel agents.
· 24,000 in cleaning and maintenance, including housekeepers, janitors and landscapers.
· 18,000 in office and administrative support jobs like hotel desk clerk, office clerk, or messenger.
· 18,000 in transportation jobs like bus drivers, taxi drivers and parking attendants.
· 13,000 in personal care, which includes barbers, child care workers and personal care aides.
· 11,000 in production, including butchers, laundry workers and tailors.
· 7,000 in health care support, including home health aides, nursing aides, and dental assistants.
· An additional 33,000 Virginians work in a variety of other jobs.
As the Virginia Organizing/Families USA report explains, expanding Medicaid changes the rules in favor of the state. The federal government currently pays 63 cents of every dollar spent on health care delivered through Medicaid, and the state pays the balance. By agreeing to Medicaid expansion, Virginia could see as many as 360,000 residents gain health coverage, with the federal government paying all costs of that expansion through 2016. After that, the federal share gradually falls to 90 cents on the dollar in 2020 and remains at that level thereafter.
The report notes that if Virginia had expanded Medicaid when the option was first available in January 2014, federal funds flowing into the state could have supported 23,000 jobs in the health care sector, contributing approximately $530 million in state income and tax revenue.
“Virginia should not delay this Medicaid expansion any longer,” said Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA. “The need to provide access to quality health coverage for hundreds of thousands Virginians demands this expansion. The state’s need for a good economic boost and new jobs demands it. And, of course, the fact that circumstances can make you virtually penniless and Virginia will still deny you help to get basic health care really demands that the state expand the Medicaid program.
“The federal dollars to accomplish all this are on the table, waiting to be claimed,” Pollack said. “It’s time for the legislature to meet its obligation to the people of Virginia and expand Medicaid immediately.”
“Virginians are tired of waiting for our legislators to get their priorities straight,” said Virginia Organizing Chairperson Sandra A. Cook. “We need action on Medicaid expansion to provide coverage to the hundreds of thousands of uninsured people who will qualify and to boost our economy.”