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Medicaid Spending Is “Pitiful”

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While I agree with much of the article's description of Virginia's self-imposed fiscal dilemma ("The Big Pickle," Jan. 18), I must take issue with the characterization of state funding needed to pay for "a horde of new Medicaid recipients because of the new federal health-care law."

That law does establish a new national floor for Medicaid eligibility — 133 percent of the federal poverty line (about $15,000 per year for an individual, about $30,000 for a family of four). Virginia's Medicaid program has been one of the most restrictive in the country for decades — only covering low income parents with income below 30 percent of the poverty line, and not covering childless adults at all (unless pregnant, disabled or older than 65). Virginia's per capita Medicaid spending is ranked 47th nationally, which is pitiful, considering it is ranked seventh highest in per-capita income.

Because of these abysmally low current eligibility levels, and 1 million uninsured in the state, it should come as no surprise that hundreds of thousands of very low-income Virginians will newly qualify for Medicaid in 2014. To me that's good news. Even better, the federal government pays for 100 percent of the new cost for the first several years and continues to pay 90 percent of the costs thereafter. This will bring billions of dollars into Virginia's economy to support the health-care system, jobs and wages.

Jill Hanken, Attorney
Virginia Poverty Law Center
Richmond

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