Lt. Gov. Northam: The fierce urgency of now

Thanks to Ashley Bauman <ashley@vademocrats.org> for this note from Lt Gov Northam.

By Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam

© February 25, 2014

Over the past few months, a lot has been said about the need to provide health care to the commonwealth’s most hard-working and vulnerable citizens.

As both a practicing physician and a policymaker, my support for Medicaid expansion is no secret. It is a simple fact that one’s quality of life significantly improves with access to affordable health care.

Imagine your child had a fever of 105 and was not able to be seen by a provider, or that you had to decide between paying rent and refilling a life-saving prescription. Hundreds of thousands of working Virginians make these choices on a daily basis.

I emphasize the word “working” because 70 percent of Virginians without insurance have at least one working member in their household. Closing the coverage gap is not a handout. It is intended for hard-working Virginians who don’t otherwise have access to health insurance.

As a physician, I am troubled by the fact that your economic status so greatly determines your ability to access and the quality of your health care. As a parent, I am heartbroken knowing that mothers and fathers throughout the state are making choices between putting food on the table for their kids and paying for their basic health care each month.

The children I see at my practice are fortunate, but there are too many others in similar situations who don’t have access to insurance through employers, cannot afford care out of pocket and don’t have access to charity care.

As a business owner, I cannot fathom giving $5 million, per day, to competing businesses. But in this case, that’s exactly what we are doing if we don’t expand Medicaid. We are sending Virginia’s tax dollars to our neighboring states so they can improve the health, well-being and productivity of their own students and workers.

Instead, we should be doing all we can to reinvest those tax dollars in our own communities. To be clear, these are tax dollars that the people of Virginia will continue to pay whether or not Virginia ever draws down our share from the federal government.

Meanwhile, our hospitals are struggling to close their financial gaps, when we could be creating tens of thousands of new jobs in the health care field. These are quality jobs that would help boost local economies and ultimately generate more revenue for the state.

Finally, as a veteran of the U.S. Army, I am incredibly frustrated that many of my fellow veterans fall into the coverage gap and don’t have access to affordable health care, despite their service to our great nation.

Contrary to popular belief, in Virginia there are more than 30,000 veterans who don’t have health insurance. These men and women risked their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq for our freedom, and now work in the private sector earning minimum wage, live under the poverty line and are not able to afford health care coverage for themselves or their families.

The least we can do for these brave individuals, many with serious medical conditions, is ensure that they and their families have access to affordable and quality health care.

If you refer to yourself as a patriot, profess to have good business sense, describe yourself as a well-intended person having compassion for your fellow man, or all of the above, I strongly encourage you to discuss favorably with your delegate and senator the benefits of expanding health care to the nearly 400,000 working Virginians currently in the coverage gap.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “of all the forms of injustice, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” In his speech at the March on Washington, he called on America to recognize “the fierce urgency of now.”

Now is the time for Virginia to put politics and partisanship aside and to responsibly provide coverage to those in need as soon as possible. The health of our neighbors, children, and veterans depends on it.

Ralph Northam is lieutenant governor of Virginia. He lives in Norfolk.

http://hamptonroads.com/2014/02/lt-gov-northam-fierce-urgency-now

Ralph Northam on This Week in Richmond

Important comments on the job of Lt. Governor – Medicaid Expansion, transportation, education and all of the important issues before Virginia in the coming years:

Terry McAuliffe nailed it with this ad:

Terry McAuliffe’s ad shown below calls his opponent out for wasting taxpayer money and not doing his job. His opponent wasted taxpayer money suing the federal government over Obamacare, opposing transportation and infrastructure spending, and — as this ad shows — trying to impose a political ideology on scientific research. An Attorney General is supposed to look after the interests of Virginia and Virginians, not litigate against the best interest of the Commonwealth and his constituents.

Medicaid expansion moves forward for most states

A key provision of Obamacare is Medicaid expansion, expanding the range of persons eligible for Medicaid to low income individuals and families. States have the option to participate or not participate. The entire cost of this expansion is paid by the federal government for the first four years, essentially pumping money into the state’s economy to raise the standard of living for those who need it most by providing health care.

The money will not go to the poor or low income individuals. It will go to doctors, hospitals, and providers of health care both direct and indirect. Jobs will be created in medical and related fields. The low-income people will get to go to the doctor when they are ill. Even so, some states are opting out. On the map below the poverty belt across the southeast, from North Carolina to Texas is clearly visible. Virginia is leaning toward joining this group, and Tennessee is still undecided.

Texas, with 26.3 % uninsured, Georgia and Oklahoma, each with with 21.9 % uninsured, Mississippi with 21% uninsured are opting out. These are four of the ten states with the highest percentage of uninsured people. Five of the ten are opting in: Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Montana, and California. The tenth of this group of states, Alaska, is still undecided.

This map shows where each state stands, and is interactive so you can check on your state:


Where the States Stand

Via: The Advisory Board Company

Medicaid Expansion: Statement from Brian Moran

Democratic Party of Virginia Chairman Brian Moran released the following statement on July 12, 2012, urging Governor Bob McDonnell to put politics aside and opt Virginia in to the Medicaid expansion program set forth by the Affordable Care Act:

“Right now thousands of Virginians are waiting to find out if their Governor will take advantage of available federal funding to ensure that they get access to health insurance they would otherwise lack, or if he will allow partisan politics to override their best interests.

“It is past time for Governor McDonnell and Republicans all over the country to accept that the Affordable Care Act is the law of our land, that it is already making it possible for millions of families to acquire health insurance and that repealing it or stonewalling its implementation will rob millions of their access to health insurance that should be a right in our nation, not a privilege for the few.

“Should he decide to stand in the way of this critical expansion, the Governor will send Virginians a clear message about his level of respect for the tax dollars they send to Washington. By refusing to claim Virginia’s fair share of federal assistance, the Governor could jeopardize many families’ access to affordable care.

“This is a historic moment for the Governor and our Commonwealth. We can either prove once again that we are above the reckless partisan obstructionism that is damaging other states on issues like these, or we can continue to allow radical elements of the Republican party define our public policy in ways that denigrate our reputation and leave Virginians waiting for leadership that puts their best interests first.

“On behalf of the Democratic Party of Virginia, I urge Governor McDonnell to take advantage of this opportunity to bring Virginia taxpayer dollars back to the Commonwealth and to ensure that thousands of families get access to affordable health care that is so essential to opportunity and economic success in our society. We simply cannot afford to let party politics override the common good on this critical issue.” ###

Appalachia and Virginia need ACA implemented

New health care bill will eventually reduce demand For RAM by providing affordable, quality health care for Appalachia

Wise, VA –Community members and health care advocates say the huge demand for RAM’s services exemplifies why health care reform is desperately needed in Appalachia and America. For the third year in a row, thousands of local residents will visit the Wise County Fairgrounds this weekend to receive medical care from The Remote Area Medical Foundation (RAM), a non-profit, volunteer, relief corps that provides medical services to remote areas.

RAM’s efforts have been applauded and celebrated by local residents and political leaders. Last year RAM facilitated 5598 patient encounters at the Wise County fairgrounds. The RAM Wise County effort was fueled by 1746 volunteers from RAM and local organizations and provided local residents with over $1.6 million worth of care, free of charge.

This weekend’s RAM clinic is expected to bring comparably large crowds, however the conversation around the state of health care in Southwest Virginia has changed. The passage of the Patient’s Protection and Affordable Protection Act in March has given many local residents hope that the bill’s expansion of coverage and affordability will not only reduce the need for RAM but provide Southwest Virginia with reliable care year round.

Jill Carson has volunteered at RAM with Stone Mountain Health Services Black Lung and Respiratory Care. “The number of people who get care at RAM speaks to the need to increase access to health care in the area,” said Carson. “The staff and volunteers at RAM do an amazing job. However, the question is: how do we get access to health care for the other 362 days? That is where the new health care bill comes in. We are finally laying the groundwork towards quality care for all.”

According to Energy and Commerce statistics, the heath care reform bill will improve coverage for 361,000 residents in Virginia’s Ninth Congressional District with health insurance and extend coverage to 48,500 uninsured residents. “Quality, affordable and accessible health care is critically important for everyone. There are many paths to get to that point. The important thing is that we are moving along that path,” said Dr. Sue Cantrell.

Laura Lawson of Wise has volunteered with RAM in the past and has connected many people with the clinic through her work with Early Head Start. “I have seen the need for RAM through my work and my own family. I am glad the health care bill will expand coverage to those who need it and someday make RAM unnecessary,” said Lawson. “Yet a lot of people are unaware of the benefits that are available through the bill and have no idea how it can help them. I would like to see members of Congress work harder to make sure their constituents understand the ways they will benefit from health care reform.”

Fanchette Fannelli of the Fourth World Movement/Appalachia has supported the efforts of the Health Wagon to bring RAM to Southwest Virginia for years. Two years ago, she interviewed patients and volunteers at RAM and published a book, Here and Hurting, which was later shared with members of Congress.

This year, the organization will have an exhibit at RAM with photos of children around the world who have no access to health care. “Many people are served by RAM but the demand is so great that some people have to be turned away, even after waiting in line for hours. This was the case for a man that we brought to RAM last year. We certainly hope that the health care reform will eventually eliminate the need for programs like RAM in the United States. Until then, the under-insured and non-insured in our part of Appalachia will have to depend on the good will and dedication of the volunteers who make RAM possible,” said Fannelli.

According to statistics provided by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, in Congressman Boucher’s district, the health care reform bill will:

  • Improve coverage for 361,000 residents with health insurance.
  • Give tax credits and other assistance to up to 203,000 families and 12,200 small businesses to help them afford coverage.
  • Improve Medicare for 134,000 beneficiaries, including closing the donut hole.
  • Extend coverage to 48,500 uninsured residents.
  • Guarantee that 10,800 residents with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage.
  • Protect 800 families from bankruptcy due to unaffordable health care costs.
  • Allow 55,000 young adults to obtain coverage on their parents’ insurance plans
  • Provide millions of dollars in new funding for 44 community health centers
  • Reduce the cost of uncompensated care for hospitals and other health care providers by $59 million annually.

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This article provided by Julie Blust, Communications Director, Virginia Organizing Project
The Virginia Organizing Project is a statewide, multi-issue grassroots organization committed to challenging injustice by empowering people in local communities to address issues that affect the quality of their lives. www.virginia-organizing.org