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Over 400,000 working Virginians are uninsured. The cost of providing care in the emergency rooms is causing everyone’s insurance premiums to skyrocket and local hospitals are close to financial disaster. Virginia is sending $5 million a day in tax dollars to the Federal government to help pay for Expansion in 27 other States. Yet, the Federal government is willing to cover 100 percent of the costs of expanding Medicaid through 2016 and 90 percent of the costs thereafter. This is a good deal.

I ask lawmakers to consider the facts when deciding the issue of Medicaid Expansion.

Opponents claim that the Virginia Medicaid program is fraught with abuse. Yet, according to a 2011 JLARC Report “Mitigating the Risk of Improper Payments in the Virginia Medicaid Program,” recipient and provider fraud totals 0.3 percent, (or roughly $6 million) not the $38 billion that some have tossed about. In fact, Virginia has one of the best-managed Medicaid programs in the country.

Another argument is “the Federal government will not live up to its financial commitment.” There is no basis for this conclusion. The Medicaid program has been in existence since 1965, nearly 50 years, and during this entire time the Federal government has never reduced its financial commitment to the States.

Moreover, Virginia has never been shy about accepting Federal money. In fact, the biennium budget currently being considered includes $20 billion in federal dollars for all sorts of programs out of a $96 billion budget! Even Speaker Howell has recently admitted, “Medicaid Expansion is germane to the budget.”

It is also worth noting that Governor McAuliffe’s Medicaid Expansion program sets aside $100 million in a trust fund to pay Virginia’s share of the program in future years. Local officials should be aware that participating in Medicaid Expansion allows the State to save $225 million in this biennial budget alone. After setting aside nearly half of this amount in the trust fund, enough dollars are available to give teachers and State employees a 2 percent pay raise.

The Senate’s bi-partisan “Marketplace Virginia” addresses every reasonable concern raised by opponents. In Marketplace Virginia, participants would share costs up to 5 percent of their household income, additional safeguards are in place to prevent fraud and abuse, budgetary savings would be set aside to pay the State’s share of Medicaid in the future; and the program automatically ends if the Federal government fails to meet its funding obligations. Lawmakers have the power to save jobs, boost the economy and help manage the cost of care for everyone. Now is the time to act!

Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Dist. 31)