State numbers just got healthy

The following editorial appeared in The Dominion Post, Morgantown, on Sept. 21:

Finally, our state has posted some truly healthy numbers.

No, it would be premature to think we have turned any corners on our state’s health rankings. However, that would not come as a huge surprise in light of the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest data on the drop in the number of uninsured West Virginians.

According to that information, our state has racked up one of the biggest declines in uninsured residents in the country between 2013-‘14.

This drop in that rate may look marginal — going from 14 percent to 8.6 percent — of West Virginians. However, on closer examination, the actual number of the uninsured in our state has dropped from about 250,000 people to about 99,000 people in 2014. That’s about a 60 percent decline in the number of uninsured.

It’s also safe to say that number has probably shrunk even further since this past year.

A major reason for that decline is the governor’s decision in May 2013 to accept the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program.

That expansion, via the Affordable Care Act, calls for the federal government to fully fund this expansion for three years. That phases down to 90 percent by 2020 and remains at that rate thereon.

More than 600,000 West Virginia residents are enrolled in Medicaid.

Clearly, these numbers came at a major cost, about $700 million in federal funds in 2014 alone. Still, we suspect that number pales in light of the benefits to the number of state residents whose health care has improved.

That’s not the only benefit, either. It also provides for more people being able to work or go to school, care for their families and contribute to their communities.

Estimating that economic impact might appear marginal, but we suspect it’s been a boon to many region of this state.

Of course, many of those residents who are now insured also signed up for private coverage, too.

Nationally, the uninsured rate decreased by 2.9 percentage points between 2013-‘14 to 10.4 percent.

Nearly five years after the Affordable Care Act became the law of the land, it is still imperfect and has not lived up to some of its promises.

Yet, the expansion of Medicaid alone in states where governors approved it, has fulfilled thatprovision’s promise and benefited millions.

One old expression has it that you never need insurance until you don’t have it.

It’s comforting to know tens of thousands more West Virginians have it.


(c) 2015 The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.)

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