Report says Medicaid expansion would create jobs - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Report says Medicaid expansion would create jobs

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Teresa Brown suffers from Meniere's disease, a disease that in her case will last the next 20 years and is already causing her to go deaf in one ear.

Her husband, a coal truck driver, has skin cancer on his face. She said it will cost anywhere from $2,600 to $20,000 if he has to go to Morgantown to get the cancer removed from his nose to keep it from spreading into his eye and nasal cavity.

Brown said that because of a decrease in pay, insurance through her husband's company has become too expensive.

"It cost us about $1,969 a month for me and him to have insurance," she said. "At this time, he is bringing home $1,000 every two weeks. If we take the option to pay down insurance, we have nothing to live on"

Brown spoke to legislators and members of the West Virginians for Affordable Health Care at a press conference at the state Capitol, reporting on the economic effects of expanding Medicaid and urging Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to expand the program.

The report, by Families USA and West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, states that if West Virginia expands Medicaid, then by 2016 the state will create 6,200 new jobs and generate $664 million in economic activity.

The report also states West Virginia would receive an additional $721 million in federal Medicaid funds.

The report states, "in the case of Medicaid, the program makes payments to health care providers, such as hospitals, physicians' offices and pharmacists. These payments have a direct effect on the economy by paying for health-related goods and services and by supporting health care jobs in the state."

The report continues, saying the indirect effect would be to trigger "successive rounds of purchasing as they continue to circulate through the economy."

"In that way, they create earnings and jobs for people who are not directly — or even indirectly — associated with health care."

Perry Bryant, executive director of the West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, said he thinks this decision is important for the state's economy.

"There is no action that Gov. Tomblin can take that will create more jobs than adopting Medicaid expansion," he said. "Building the Macy's warehouse and reopening the Charleston and manufacturing facility by Gestamp are wonderful achievements, but they don't come close to creating the number of jobs or generating the amount of economic activity as expanding Medicaid will have."

The report, which Families USA contracted with the for-profit Regional Economic Model Inc., states Medicaid expansion will reduce state spending on sate-funded health care programs for the uninsured.

"When uninsured people go to the doctor or hospital for medical care, they often can't pay for the full costs of that care. Care that isn't covered by insurance or paid for by patients themselves is called uncompensated care. Right now, states and localities pay for about 30 percent of the cost of uncompensated care that is provided to the uninsured," the report states.

The report acknowledges that some states have expressed concerns that expanding Medicaid would increase their costs.

"While there will be some costs for states, they may not be as large as states believe. Furthermore, there are offsetting savings in addition to increased state revenue," the report states.

Additionally, the report continues saying in 2017, the state will begin pricing up a percentage of the costs of covering the new population

"On the other hand, many of these costs will be incurred whether the state expands Medicaid or not," the report states. "Because the Affordable Care Act changes the way states calculate income for Medicaid eligibility, states will have to make some administrative changes to their Medicaid program even if they do not expand."

Dr. Dan Doyle, a primary care physician at Cabin Creek Health Systems, said he thinks expansion will help people like Brown who can't afford health insurance. Doyle noted that about 120,000 West Virginians could benefit from the expansion.

"I do numerous cases where people, often young people, don't have health insurance and need specialty care now," he said, later adding, "Now, there is a wonderful opportunity for Medicaid expansion. For years, I've been grieving and moaning and groaning of this problem we have.

As for Brown, she said she hopes the expansion will go through, not only for her but for her daughter, who works as an assistant manager making about $12,000 a year and can't afford her company's insurance.  

Brown said to qualify for Medicaid now, her daughter would have to make half that amount to cover her and her two children.

"I need help," Brown said. "I'm begging Gov. Tomblin to help us."