This week’s vote in the Virginia Senate to accept federal funds for Medicaid expansion was long overdue. We should not forget all the people who’ve unnecessarily gone without medicines and medical care for the past three years, because of the refusal of Republicans in our legislature to expand the program. Nevertheless, it is heartening to see that, at last, the Commonwealth will be extending Medicaid to working families struggling just above the poverty line. And hats off to the delegation from southwest Virginia, the majority of whom voted for working folks in Virginia!
In addition to enabling a few hundred thousand Virginians to receive quality medical care, Medicaid expansion will likely help stabilize rural hospitals and clinics in southwest Virginia. Over the past few years, hospitals in Lee County and Patrick County have closed, while others are struggling to hang on. We know from an analysis done by researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical School that states who expanded Medicaid had six times fewer hospital closures than those who refused it. With Virginia now on the way to expanded Medicaid, rural hospitals and clinics should stabilize and once again be able to provide the critical services they do in the 9th District.