This letter is not to question the sincerity of Virginia Delegate Scott Lingamfelter’s position (“State GOP stood on principle”, Fairfax Times, Aug. 1-3) regarding the state budget, but I do question his wisdom, and I am doing so as one of his constituents. He is proud of the fact that “we have a budget — one that does not expand Obamacare in Virginia.” He believes that he and like-minded legislators acted wisely. I do not.
What is the wisdom in excluding 400,000 Virginians, primarily working poor Virginians, from health care coverage by failing to expand Medicaid, especially when the costs of the expansion are 100 percent federally funded for 2014 through 2016, decreasing incrementally to 90 percent for 2020 and subsequent years for all newly eligible enrollees? (After 2016, the state share increases gradually, and is capped at 10 percent by 2020.)
What is the wisdom, as the Washington Post editorial board questions in a March 6, 2014, editorial, of leaving daily “$5 million in federal funds unclaimed”? The Washington Post editorial continues with this note: “It has also passed up another $32 million so far this year (as of early March) in lost savings, as well as tax revenues that would be generated by the creation of some 20,000 health-care jobs.”
Delegate Lingamfelter’s argument is that this is all about fiscal responsibility on the part of the federal government, and Virginia legislators are now responsible for exercising fiscal responsibility if the feds will not. The earlier argument used by Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates was similar: the feds will renege on the commitment to cover 90 percent of the cost of expansion after 2016, because of the debt and insufficient tax revenue which requires excessive borrowing by the federal government. However, as the editorial board noted: “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.”
If Lingamfelter’s argument was followed to its logical conclusion, then Virginia should accept NO federal grants for any program—e.g., education, transportation, Medicaid, TANF, etc.
Aside from the financial consideration, is there not a moral perspective —a perspective derived from conventional community standards rooted in ethical principles--being overlooked by Lingamfelter and other legislators?
As Jim Wallis, a New York Times bestselling author, public theologian, speaker, and acclaimed commentator on ethics and public life, has frequently noted: “Budgets are moral documents.”
The moral aspects of Virginia’s budget have been addressed by the various faith communities in the Commonwealth and have been persuasively articulated by the Catholic bishops of Virginia in their statement (April 11, 2014) on expanding Medicaid: “Our advocacy is informed by...teaching that, first, everyone has the right to life, and second, healthcare is a right – not a privilege – that flows from the right to life itself… Virginia should start accepting federal money that can provide nearly 400,000 of its poorest residents the health insurance they currently lack and desperately need.”
Ligamfelter and his like-minded colleagues in the Virginia House have, unfortunately, acted unwisely from both a fiscal or fiduciary perspective as well as a moral perspective. The citizens of Virginia have not been well served.
Robert Stewart, Chantilly