By: Ellen Allen
January 13, 2024
The 2024 legislative session is underway, and that always means a busy 60 days for West Virginians for Affordable Healthcare. Our mission is to bring a consumer voice to public policy so that every West Virginian has quality, affordable health care and the opportunity to lead an informed, healthy and productive life.
That’s why this year, our legislative agenda is laser focused on preserving and protecting Medicaid.
For three years during the COVID-19 public health emergency, the federal government gave states enhanced Medicaid funding to not remove people from the program during the pandemic. At the beginning of 2023, the program provided services for more than 650,000 West Virginians, including children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, low-income working adults and seniors.
Medicaid is the state’s largest health insurance program – and at a projected federal/state budget of more than about $5.2 billion, Medicaid supports not only West Virginia residents but also the health care infrastructure through more than $4 billion in federal matching dollars.
According to West Virginia’s commissioner for the Bureau of Medicaid Services, Cindy Beane, the Mountain State is facing a budget deficit of $114 million in the next budget year – and the cruel nature of the economic downturn is that at a time when you need a social safety net is also the time when government revenues shrink.
The first step in preserving and protecting Medicaid is to fill the decrease of federal match with state dollars. That’s why we’re asking the Legislature for a one-time, supplemental appropriation to cover the deficit – the first request of its kind in nearly 10 years. It is in the best interests of all West Virginians for the state to fill the share to continue the Medicaid program at its current level of funding.
In 2017, about 560,000 West Virginians participated in Medicaid (around 30% of the total population) and the program spent nearly $3.7 billion in the state’s economy directly.
Not everyone realizes Medicaid is a joint program between the federal government and state Medicaid. The state share of Medicaid expenditures depends on the state’s per capita income. Lower income states receive a greater federal share of program expenditures. West Virginia ranks near the bottom of states in terms of per capita personal income, so the federal share for the Medicaid program in West Virginia is among the highest in the nation.
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