Medicaid expansion and Virginia’s job gap

Virginia Organizing released on Wednesday a report authored by the Alliance for a Just Society detailing the living wage “job gap” in Virginia. This is the 15th year the report has been produced.

virginia-blue-oversizeIn Virginia, there are approximately seven job seekers for every one job that pays a living wage in a single adult household. That number increases to 16 job seekers for every one living wage job available in a two-child, single parent household.

Speakers expressed concern that Virginia has not agreed to expand Medicaid and discussed the consequences of failing to expand for the 400,000 Virginians who would benefit, our communities, and our economy. Medicaid expansion would add well-paying jobs to the economy and reduce the cost of living for many low-income Virginians.

Eunice Haigler, a Virginia Organizing leader from Fredericksburg who is directly affected by Medicaid, understands the real consequences that lack of healthcare can have.

“In 2010, I was working, but I made too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to purchase health insurance,” said Haigler. “I had to put food on the table for my family instead of getting health care I needed. As a result of not having Medicaid then, and not being able to get the medicine or treatment I needed for a tumor, I am partially blind today.”

“This report shows what Virginians already know—we need better wages and better social safety net programs in Virginia,” said Virginia Organizing Chairperson Sandra A. Cook. “Medicaid expansion and an increase in the minimum wage can clearly help those working low-wage jobs have more financial security and add more to the economy through being able to afford to spend money in local communities. These things are good for all of us.”

Virginia’s failure to expand Medicaid has already cost well-paying jobs in Pennington Gap, Virginia after the Lee Regional Medical Center closed.

“One of the casualties of the politicization of Medicaid expansion was a local hospital,” said Lee County resident and Virginia Organizing leader Jill Carson. “People lost their jobs and now community members have to travel farther for medical treatment. The travel costs add even more to health care costs that many low-income workers already cannot afford due to lack of a living wage.”

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