Del. Jim LeMunyon (R-Dist. 67), like all of us, surely has his faults, but failing to communicate with his constituents is not one of them. However, as a constituent, I can fault him for failing to make a cogent argument for his opposition to Medicaid expansion, a program that would benefit the working poor in Virginia and cover 38,670 in his district — a statistic he either did not know, but should have, or purposely omitted. How can anyone be comfortable with so many (38,670 locally and 400,000 statewide) being uninsured?
In addition to the thousands in his district and all of Northern Virginia who will not enjoy health care coverage if Medicaid is not expanded, our INOVA hospital system that serves us in Northern Virginia will forgo about $100 million a year if Medicaid is not expanded. Those of us with coverage and able to pay the bills from hospitals, physicians, lab and x-ray facilities will end up paying a “hidden tax” for all the unreimbursed hospital and medical expenses resulting from services provided the uninsured — we can all count on the hospital and medical vendors making up for their losses at our expense. LeMunyon makes note of this subsidizing by all of us with coverage and financial resources, and he does not deny the validity of this argument by proponents of expansion, because it is true.
Several weeks ago, the Washington Post editorial board, with their March 6 editorial, “Virginia Republicans’ stand against Medicaid funding defies the facts,” refuted much of what Delegate LeMunyon had to say before he said it.
A few of the major points made by the Washington Post editorial board, relying on the research by the independent Commonwealth Institute, were these:
• Virginia has forfeited $330 million in federal funds — funds already paid to Uncle Sam by taxpayers — as a result of its delay in expanding Medicaid to cover up to 400,000 lower-income and uninsured Virginians.
• With each passing day, the state leaves another $5 million in federal funds unclaimed. It has also passed up another $32 million so far this year in lost savings, as well as tax revenues that would be generated by the creation of some 20,000 health-care jobs.
• Republicans in the House of Delegates, who have dug in their heels to block Medicaid expansion, do not dispute these figures, which were calculated by the Commonwealth Institute... They offer no real rebuttal to business groups that argue unlocking the federal funds would boost Virginia’s economy.
• GOP lawmakers insist that the feds, strapped by entitlement programs, will renege on their statutory commitment to cover 90 percent of the cost of expansion come 2021. That’s possible. But if Washington does renege, Virginia would have the option of dropping coverage and trimming its Medicaid rolls, as it has done in the past.
• They (the Republicans in the House) have proposed dealing with Medicaid expansion in a special legislative session, thereby decoupling it from the state budget. But Mr. Howell (the Speaker of the House) and his colleagues have proposed no alternative to consider in a special session.
Also with respect to “decoupling it from the state budget,” the independent Commonwealth Institute, referenced above, notes that “despite what opponents of closing the health care coverage gap lead you to believe, extending health insurance to more Virginians has been a budget issue for the last three years.”
The Post characterizes all this bluster from the opposition as a “a glorious crusade to deny health insurance to poor people and deny Virginians the benefit of the hard-earned taxes they have already paid.” I could not agree more, and I believe the public good, unfortunately, is not being served well by Mr. LeMunyon and his colleagues opposing Medicaid expansion in the Virginia House of Delegates.
Robert Stewart, Chantilly
SALT (Social Action Linking Together) Public Affairs Coordinator