Unfortunately, the public mistakenly believes that “children who live in families that cannot afford health insurance already get it for free.” In Virginia, as many as 187,000 poor children live without health insurance coverage.
Virginia should and could offer insurance to all kids in Virginia by raising the income eligibility limit for FAMIS coverage, as 28 other states and the District of Columbia have done. According to the Governor’s bi-partisan Commission on Health Reform, raising FAMIS to 300 percent of the poverty line would allow an additional 21,200 children to enroll in the FAMIS program. This expansion would also help reach children in families with lower incomes who are currently eligible for Medicaid and FAMIS, but are not enrolled in these programs.
Despite Virginia’s relative wealth (ranked 9th nationally in per capita personal income), the state’s Medicaid program is extremely limited. Virginia is ranked 48th in per capita total Medicaid expenditures and 50th in per capita federal grants, such as Medicaid.
One of the most glaring deficiencies in Virginia’s Medicaid program is inadequate coverage for very low-income families. In Virginia, a parent with income over $6,000/year doesn’t qualify for Medicaid coverage. This is now ranked the 6th lowest in the nation. Virginia should change its eligibility to – at least – reach the national average of Medicaid income eligibility for parents – 64 percent of the federal poverty level.
Virginia can and should do much more to ensure that its low-income citizens have health care, a right and not just a privilege to be enjoyed by some of our citizens!
Mary Narayan is affiliated with the Vienna-based Social Action linking Together.