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Medicaid Expansion in Virginia

Posted by Joe Antle on April 15, 2018 12:20 PM EDT
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Series of op-ed pieces and a final editorial in The Virginian-Pilot newspaper last week push for.....

expansion of Medicaid in the state of Virginia.  While it was a substantial level of editorial focus, it didn't push for a vote this past week as the Virginia General Assembly (GA) continues to avoid finding a fair and equitable solution for the "political football" in the historically conservative state legislature.

What was most encouraging in the editiorials and op-ed pieces was that accountability for Medicaid recipients to do something to pay back or to show a willingness to "earn" the Medicaid benefits was tied to each of the author's arguments for passage of the GA bill.  This shows a path toward compromise and makes it easier to support for those of us who are tired of seeing our hard-earned dollars go for taxes that benefit people who don't seem to feel that they should do something productive to earn those "entitlements".  In my mind, the word "entitlements" has been misused in that context for way too long. Only people who have paid into a system or who have taken appropriate action to earn such a benefit is there a well-deserved sense of entitlement.

So, here's a rundown of the four editorial and/or op-ed pieces, their authors, specific parts of their pieces that caught my eye and a final note from me on what I think of these opinions:

1. The week started with a fine op-ed piece written in the Sunday, April 8th Opinion section by frequent contributor to The Virginian-Pilot Gordon C. Morse.  Morse was a politicial speech writer and then spent nearly three decades working on behalf of corporate and philanthropic organizations including Pepsico, CSX, Tribune Co. and the Colonial Williamsburg Fondation.

"Last November, the state Senate Finance Committeediscussed Medicaid and the challenges it lays before the General Assembly.  Buried down in that is a presentation (slide no. 47) are two lines:"

"One,  Virgina needs to place a greater focus on health outcomes inthe program.  And, two, oversight and montiroing are essential to managing the growh of the program.  Outcomes.  Oversight.  Management.  Sounds like the right thing to do".

2. On Tuesday, the newspaper featured a well-written op-ed piece by Frank Wagner who is a member of the Virginia state Senate.  He represents parts of Virginia Beach and Norfolk.

He wrote:

"If Virginia expands Medicaid, we should encourage Virginians to improve their livelihood.  A firm work requirement for able-bodied adult Medicaid recipents must be incorporated into any expandsion.  No one should be allowed to sit around and collect benefits while the rest of Virginians work to pay for them".

3.  On Wednesday, The Virginian-Pilot kept the issue of Medicaid expansion front and center with a solid op-ed piece by Ron A. Villanueva who served on the Virginia Beach City Council and the Virginia House of Delegates from 2010-2017, and was chairman of the House Transportation Committee.  He is a veteran of the Coast Guard and is a small business entrepreneur.

He wrote:

"Unlike lawmakers in othre statesd, Virginia legislators insisted on finding reforms before rushing headlong into coverage expansion.  That has brought us an opportunity to bring billions in taxpayer dollars back to the commonwealth.  We are losing that money now.  The House plan would recover it to help peole support the state budger, grow new jobs and strenthen our economy".

"Virginia can do all that and acheived conservaative reforms by establishing standards so able-bodies people in this health care program are orking to imprve their lives.  The House plan also has conditions so program participants are personally invested in their own health".

Finally, on the same day opposite Mr. Villanueva's op-edi piece, the newspapers editorial staff wrote a powerful message in the form of its key editorial for the day in favor of expansion but also predicating the expansion on ensuring that all Virginians get the heatlh care that they need but also that they earn it through some form of action that supports the economy in general such as work requirements.

The newspaper wrote:

"An increasing willingness by federal officials to allow for innovation-to let states truly be incubators of policy making-means that Virginia can focus its attention on building a first-class health care system focused on patient outcomes and equitable bunding, something that Democrats and Republicans care agree should be the goals".

"What's more, accepting Medicaid dollars will allow Virginia to address other health-related shortcomings, such as its broken mental illness programs or the medical care provided to inmates in state facilities".

"The discussion in Virginia should center on program parameters and structure, administration and benefits, how to encourage acceptance without discouraging economic aspirations, and finding ways to make the commonwealth a model for other states".

While these all suggest that the legislation should pass and do so with a caveat or two to require actions by recipients to somehow contribute in some meaningful way to the general welfare of the state, all of them fall well short of the ultimate issue.

We need to tie all publicly-granted benefits and free, government-baced health care and health insurance benefits to the premise of requiring beneficiaries to enroll in and have formal healthy living requirements and education on healthcare consumption as a condition for earning the free health care benefits.  And a portion of the savings should be tied to rewarding health care providers and others who play a role in helping Virginia create a healthier population an economic reward for doing so.

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