Last week, Virginia’s General Assembly once again took up the issue of closing the coverage gap, and once again struck the measure down. The primary goal of last week’s special session was to discuss the closure of this gap: Governor McAuliffe’s biggest legislative priority and a huge potential boon for Virginian families. Doing so would make Medicaid coverage available to 400,000 people in Virginia who currently are uninsured, a status that puts their health, their finances, and their futures in jeopardy. Huge political controversy, however, surrounds the issue despite its positive implications for families and for the state of Virginia.
The result of the special session was largely expected; the bill to accept additional federal funds for Medicaid died in the State House, drenched in bitter debate. This loss, however, is not the final blow to this option for Virginia. Advocates must continue and renew their efforts to keep the issue of expanded access to Medicaid on the table. To do this, we must make sure that the collective voice of the many Virginians who would be helped by accepting federal Medicaid funds is part of the policy debate. Policymakers must understand how this decision will affect families and particularly how it will impact the children of Virginia.
Voices for Virginia’s Children, a Richmond-based non-profit dedicated to championing policies and practices that improve the lives of children, recently developed a document that highlights exactly how closing the coverage gap will impact Virginia’s children. Although closing the coverage gap seems to mainly target uninsured adults, it also hugely affects children because a quarter of those adults happen to be parents. Advocates and policymakers need to take into account the ways that closing the coverage gap for parents will benefit children. Let’s review what the evidence tells us:
- Parent coverage leads to child coverage—getting children covered and keeping them from churning in and out of coverage
- When parents are insured, they are more likely to be healthy and are therefore better able to care for their children
- Parent coverage leads to overall family wellbeing, both financially and in terms of health.
When we’re thinking about the benefits of closing the coverage gap in Virginia, we shouldn’t only think about those who will become newly eligible for coverage. We should think, too, of the positive ramifications for their families. Parents and their children in other states across the country that have yet to expand Medicaid are also suffering the consequences of uninsurance. We encourage advocates in all of these states to elevate the issue of the coverage gap to policymakers with this family-centric lens, because the coverage gap is not merely an individual issue; it is also a family one.
You can read Voices for Virginia’s Children’s fact sheet for more information about the parent connection here.