By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
RICHMOND — Expanding Medicaid would cripple Virginia, according to new research that says the state would be better served by moving low-income residents into health-insurance exchanges.
“There are about 1.7 million individuals living in Virginia with incomes under 139 percent of the federal poverty level, although only about 486,000 of them lack health coverage,” said the study by the National Center for Policy Analysis.
“Uninsured Virginians earning just above the poverty level can enroll in private coverage superior to what they would get from Medicaid. Freeing them to seek private insurance will result in better quality and access to care, while expanding Medicaid will impose heavy costs on Virginia taxpayers,” the study concluded.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe has said he would not sign a state budget that does not include Medicaid expansion.
Relying on projections from the liberal Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, McAuliffe says Medicaid expansion would yield a net savings of more than $500 million annually.
Republicans have blasted McAuliffe’s position and his math.
“Terry McAuliffe wants to paint himself as a bipartisan problem solver, but he’s already drawing red lines and threatening Washington-style government shutdowns here in Virginia,” House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Falmouth, told the Washington Post.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli and others have expressed doubt the federal government will deliver on its cost-sharing pledges totaling roughly $2 billion per year.
Devon Herrick, a senior fellow with NCPA, and Linda Gorman, director of the Health Policy Center at the Independence Institute, concluded:
- States that expand Medicaid eligibility to non-disabled adults are likely to experience “crowd-out” – substitution of Medicaid for private insurance.
- Research indicates that Medicaid enrollees fare worse in terms of health outcomes than do similar patients with private insurance.
Most of the newly eligible would be adults, whereas most children in families at the allowable income level are already eligible. Allowing those individuals to seek private coverage in the exchange would prevent the strain on doctors and displacement of private insurance that will follow if Virginia expands its Medicaid program, the researchers said.
“Doctors and hospitals will also benefit from much more generous fees than the paltry reimbursements state Medicaid programs pay,” Herrick said.
For families earning less than 100 percent of poverty, Virginia could tailor its Medicaid program in ways that make sense to meet Virginians’ specific needs. These services might include selectively covering some optional populations but not others, the report said.
Contact Kenric Ward at [email protected] or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward