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Medicaid expansion benefits outweigh costs

In deciding to loosen West Virginia’s tight restrictions on the state’s Medicaid program, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin made the right call.

Taking into account a variety of factors, the governor announced Thursday that the state will expand Medicaid under the controversial federal health care reform law that goes into full effect on Jan. 1.

The chief result is that an estimated 91,500 state residents who now have no health insurance will have the opportunity to get coverage, based on an income qualification that is far more reasonable than it is now. The federal law urges states to extend Medicaid benefits to people who make less than 138 percent of the federal poverty line. That’s about $32,499 for a family of four.

West Virginia now has one of the strictest limits in the country, prohibiting adults from enrolling if their household earns more than $8,240 for a family of four.

The expansion won’t come without a cost to the state budget, an analysis ordered by Tomblin showed. That study estimated that West Virginia’s support of Medicaid will increase by $375 million over the next decade under the expansion. The bulk of the increased costs will be borne by the federal government, to the tune of about $5 billion over that same span.

The study also cited other benefits for expanding coverage. The state’s hospitals will save an estimated $20 million to $30 million a year annually in uncompensated care provided now to the uninsured. The move also will take some pressure off many employers, who must decide whether to provide health insurance for their employees or pay a penalty to the government. By expanding Medicaid, many of their employees will have another avenue to gain insurance and the employer won’t have to pay a penalty. That could mean a savings to them of anywhere from $6 million to $18 million a year, the study said.

Many Republican officials are critical of Tomblin’s move, arguing that health care reform — or Obamacare, as it’s widely called — will hurt the state and national economies. That, of course, remains to be seen.

But the fact remains that health care reform is the law of the land. West Virginia, based on its residents’ relatively low income levels and the poor health of so many, has a greater need than most states for extending insurance coverage to more people. Should so many of its residents be deprived for the sake of making a political point?

Tomblin said “No” to that question, and it was the correct answer.


—from the Huntington Herald-Dispatch




Background check bill must be read to be believed

There has been a lot said lately about The Public Safety And Second Amendment Rights Protection Act.

The amendment, authored by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., went down to defeat last month, falling short of passage in the Senate by a mere five votes.

We’ve heard about it from the politicians. We’ve heard about it from the afternoon talk show hosts. We’ve heard about it from the evening newscasters. We’ve heard about it from the commentators on weekend news shows. Social media have been abuzz on the topic for the last month.

Your neighbors, friends and co-workers have likely voiced their opinions, whether you’ve offered them your ear or not. But Manchin believes it’s time to read it for yourself. And we agree. Our hope is that our readers will take the time to read it for themselves. An online link to the text of the amendment is provided at the end of this column.

How will this legislation affect gun violence in America, which seems to be on the rise each passing year?

There are no certainties in life; that is understood. Criminals hell-bent on committing violent acts are going to always be a threat.

But why not diminish the likelihood of their rampage ending in senseless violence against innocent people, by having in place a system that denies or even delays their access to weapons?

The bill just makes sense.

There’s been so much rhetoric spewed forth, it has added only confusion. Research it. Review it. It’s the absolute best way to form an educated opinion. To check it all out, go to manchin.senate.gove and follow the links.

— from the The Register-Herald in Beckley


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