Letter to the Editor: Medicaid expansion impacts community


I am writing in response to “Council says no to Medicaid expansion” in the Sept. 20 edition of The Northern Virginia Daily. Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger posed a very particular question before adding her vote against the expansion: how could 1,400 Warren County residents have no insurance?

With the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the U.S. health care system received a massive overhaul aimed at expanding insurance coverage to lower-income families, covering pre-existing conditions, and reducing health care costs. Since its enactment, a clear critique of the federal statute centers on the federal government’s definition of affordability, specifically among working poor families that struggle to pay premiums and co-pays. Employees working less than 30 hours don’t benefit from employer-offered health care.

Based on data collected by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute’s project County Health Rankings (2016), 16 percent of Warren County residents are uninsured. That is 2 percent higher than Virginia’s 14 percent uninsured.

Coverage gaps are equally shocking. The ratio between county population and primary care physicians is approximately 1,760 to 1. The ratio for mental health providers is 1,110 residents to 1 provider. These gaps strain existing resources such as fire and rescue services that receive regular mental and behavioral health calls or health and human service professionals who cite limited funding and high health care costs as reasons for why many clients negate treatment. Many clients face the daily or weekly debate on whether or not to use their paycheck(s) on food, bills or medication. Sixteen percent of children in Warren County live in poverty, which impacts mortality rates and correlates with medical conditions, increased disease risk and overall poor health.

Medicaid expansion impacts not only potential recipients – many of whom work two or more jobs to provide for themselves, their children, or ailing loved ones –  but the community as a whole. Mocking individuals’ economic or insurance status “because [you] want to be one of them” dehumanizes the daily struggle many residents in Frederick, Shenandoah, and Warren counties face. It also deflects from the issue at hand – the future of the wellness and resiliency of the greater Northern Shenandoah Valley.

Samantha Bryant,  Harrisonburg