Medicaid expansion would help area

To the editor:

States now can choose to cover more citizens through Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, providing coverage for adults whose yearly income falls below 138 percent of the federal poverty level (about $15,800 for a single individual.) Ohio lawmakers have not approved Medicaid expansion.

There are costs to Ohio if Medicaid is not expanded. For expanded Medicaid, the federal government will pay 100 percent for 2014, 2015 and 2016. After 2016, the federal match decreases on an annual basis to not less than 90 percent by 2020 and in later years. This “enhanced match” for expanded Medicaid exceeds the current rate of 64 to 65 percent.

If Ohio doesn’t expand Medicaid, the state will not get the higher federal match. Instead of getting the projected amount of $23.8 billion in additional federal funds flowing into Ohio’s economy through 2019, Ohioans’ federal taxes will go to pay for expanded Medicaid in other states.

A recent study by Ohio State University and the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, with others, concluded that Medicaid expansion would have a positive economic impact on every county in Ohio, including Jefferson County. With more funds paying for more health care coverage locally, employment is projected to increase, especially in the areas of ambulatory health services, hospitals, insurance carriers, administrative and support services, construction and retail trade. In Jefferson County, the additional local general sales tax revenue in 2015 due to increased employment from Medicaid expansion is projected to be $116,859.

In addition to these community economic benefits, with Medicaid expansion, every county will see an increase in uninsured residents getting health care coverage. Jefferson County could see a 71 percent decrease in uninsured adults if Ohio expands Medicaid. As long as there are uninsured in Ohio, every Ohioan will share the cost of their care through higher insurance rates, cost shifting, higher fees and the cost of emergency, instead of preventative, care.

Heather L. Hall

Staff attorney Southeastern Ohio Legal Services