“The 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid is a chance to celebrate one of the greatest public health accomplishments in our nation’s history,” Kaine said. “It’s also a time to encourage those states who haven’t expanded Medicaid, including Virginia, to take advantage of the opportunity to provide affordable health care to millions of additional Americans. It’s time we give the most vulnerable in our country – including hundreds of thousands in Virginia – the peace of mind affordable, comprehensive health insurance coverage brings.”
“The creation of Medicare and Medicaid enhanced the lives of millions of Americans. And through the Affordable Care Act, we built on that public health achievement,” said Brown. “Unfortunately, four million Americans living in states that failed to expand their Medicaid program under the health law have yet to see its benefits. This is most true for low-income Americans and communities of color. It’s time for state legislatures and governors in these states to expand Medicaid so millions more Americans can realize the promise of health care coverage.”
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) put an end to insurance coverage denials for those with pre-existing conditions, halted unjustifiable premium rate hikes, and capped annual and lifetime insurance coverage limits. Because of the ACA, more than 16 million previously uninsured Americans now have health coverage – some for the first time in their lives. However, these gains in health insurance have not been uniform. This is chiefly due to the Supreme Court’s holding that states could not be compelled to expand their Medicaid programs and the ensuing willingness of some states not to expand Medicaid.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the rate of uninsured among residents eligible for Medicaid as expanded under the health law has dropped to 26.5 percent in states that have expanded their Medicaid program. The rate remains near 40 percent in the same population in non-expansion states. Failure of states to expand Medicaid disproportionately affects low-income individuals and communities of color. The uninsured rate remains about 1.5 times higher for African-Americans and more than three times higher for Latinos than for white Americans living in states that did not expand Medicaid. If every state that did not expand Medicaid chose to do so, the insurance gap between white and black Americans could be cut in half.
In 19 unique letters to governors and legislators in states without expanded Medicaid programs, Kaine and Brown, along with 29 of their Senate colleagues, cited the potential impact expanding Medicaid could have in their states and urged them to take action.
The letters were cosigned by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin, Richard Blumenthal, Barbara Boxer, Maria Cantwell, Ben Cardin, Bob Casey, Dick Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, Al Franken, Martin Heinrich, Heidi Heitkamp, Mazie Hirono, Amy Klobuchar, Patrick Leahy, Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley, Barbara Mikulski, Chris Murphy, Patty Murray, Gary Peters, Bernie Sanders, Brian Schatz, Chuck Schumer, Jeanne Shaheen, Debbie Stabenow, Tom Udall, Mark Warner, Elizabeth Warren and Sheldon Whitehouse.