Council to consider endorsing Medicaid expansion push

FRONT ROYAL – Town leaders could join other municipalities in asking the Virginia General Assembly to expand Medicaid and health care coverage to more low-income residents.

The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy has requested that all Virginia Municipal League members consider adopting a resolution requesting the General Assembly to accept federal Medicaid funding and implement expansion of health insurance coverage as provided by the Affordable Care Act.

Town Council plans to discuss the request at its work session today.

Councilman John Connolly said by email Friday that he would need to see the proposed resolution before commenting on whether or not he supports the effort.

“That said, I have not supported efforts to expand Medicaid in Virginia in the past,” Connolly stated in the email.

Vice Mayor Hollis Tharpe stated by email Friday that he’s undecided on the matter.

Information from the Virginia Interfaith Center indicates that the number of people in the Northern Shenandoah Valley who would gain health insurance through closing the coverage gap could increase by 2,700 in Frederick County, 1,700 in Shenandoah County and 1,400 in Warren County.

Virginia is one of several states that hasn’t accepted federal Medicaid funds to address a gap in health care coverage. More than 400,000 Virginians do not receive coverage as a result, according to the Virginia Interfaith Center.  The center claims accepting Medicaid funds would bring revenue and new jobs to municipalities across the state.

The Virginia Municipal League adopted a policy position in 2014 urging the General Assembly to draw down Medicaid funds to provide health care coverage to state residents.

“The 2017 General Assembly offers another opportunity for Virginia to significantly broaden health care access by drawing down federal Medicaid dollars,” states a letter to localities from the Virginia Interfaith Center. “As local leaders, you know Virginian families who desperately need the financial stability and well-being that comprehensive health care coverage offers to them. You also know the challenges many hospitals face due to the burden of those without health insurance needing uncompensated care in their emergency rooms and inpatient units when people become very ill, as well as the difficulties communities face in providing health care to those with behavioral health needs, prisoners, and children in schools.”

Virginia’s Medicaid program excludes approximately 400,000 low-income residents from receiving insurance coverage, a proposed resolution states. The Department of Medical Assistance Services estimates that Virginia would see a net savings of $265 million through fiscal 2022, with the state match offset by health care savings for prisoners, community mental health, indigent care and other services.

Expanded coverage would help families by reducing individual debt up to $1,000 and personal bankruptcies by 8 percent, the resolution states.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com