8/2/2019, 6 a.m.
Kudos to former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the fearless and energetic Democrat who led the charge to expand Medicaid in Virginia.

Kudos to former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the fearless and energetic Democrat who led the charge to expand Medicaid in Virginia.

Even in the face of overwhelming opposition and repeated defeat by a Republican-controlled General Assembly, Gov. McAuliffe pressed on to do what was right for hundreds of thousands of low- income and working class families without health insurance.

Gov. McAuliffe’s fight was continued by his successor, Gov. Ralph S. Northam, a Democrat and physician who also understood the critical need to expand Medicaid in Virginia.

Gov. Northam’s efforts were successful largely because the num- ber of Democratic lawmakers swelled in the House of Delegates following the fall 2017 elections, which broke the barriers GOP lawmakers erected in passing legislation.

In June 2018, Gov. Northam signed a bill making Virginia the 33rd state to expand Medicaid health coverage. He announced Wednesday that more than 300,000 Virginians — including 20,640 Richmonders — have enrolled in the expanded health insurance program since enrollment began in January.

The program was serving an average of 1.2 million children, seniors and disabled people each month before the expansion, ac- cording to state data.

The state Department of Medical Assistance Services estimated that Medicaid payments to hospitals in the state could reach $247 million for the period spanning from January to June. The depart- ment also is projecting that hospitals should see Medicaid revenues grow by $1.2 billion between July 1 and June 30, 2020.

More importantly, the expansion has been a boost to great num- bers of Virginians who now can seek routine preventive care and medical treatment without fear of costs and waiting until a costly emergency erupts.

“Our new members are proactively using their new coverage to address ongoing health challenges,” Dr. Daniel Carey, state secretary of health and human resources, noted in the progress announcement. “To date, more than 229,100 newly eligible adults went to the doctor, filled a prescription or received some other health service. Those include 33,000 members with hypertension, 18,800 with diabetes, 16,100 with substance use disorder and 3,300 with cancer. We can see that Medicaid expansion is addressing urgent health needs for these individuals.”

Republican lawmakers in the Commonwealth should be ashamed of blocking an essential program helping to ensure the health and welfare of thousands of people.

We encourage families who may be eligible but haven’t enrolled to get covered.

Under the expansion, Medicaid health coverage is available to people ages 19 through 64 who are not eligible for Medicare and who meet certain income requirements. An individual with an an- nual income of $17,237 or less may qualify for coverage. For a three-person household, the total annual household income must be no more than $29,436 to be eligible.

For details and to apply, go to www.coverva.org or call (855) 242-8282.