Medicaid Expansion Could Be Lifeline for Hospitals and Patients

Lynchburg, VA - Monday night, Gov. McAuliffe called on the General Assembly to expand Virginia's Medicaid program, using $2 billion a year from the federal government to fund it. It's all part of the Affordable Care Act.

ABC 13 looked into what an expansion would mean for our healthcare industry.

Doctors say there really is no downside for them. There are about one million uninsured people in Virginia. Of those, about 400,000 could meet the requirements if Medicaid is expanded, meaning they earn less than the federal poverty line.

For facilities like Centra in Lynchburg, that could be an increase in income, albeit a small one. Medicaid only pays a percentage of the hospital's bills. Right now, however, 6% of the hospital's patients have no insurance, which means the hospital most likely won't see a payment from them.

Centra's Chief Financial Officer, Lewis Addison, says at this point any payment is a good payment.

"Even at a Medicaid payment rate, which is a very reduced rate compared to other payment rates...Medicare or commercial insurance. Even at that, getting a payment for that service is much better than getting no payment at all," said Addison.

Currently, Medicaid is pretty difficult to get in Virginia. Expanding the program would make it a little easier to qualify for, potentially opening up the doctor's office door for those 400,000 uninsured. Something doctors couldn't be happier about.

"We would love to be able to see people irregardless of the payer, so that we could just do what's right for the patient. It's between the doctor and the patient, that's the relationship that counts," said Dr. Thomas Eppes, President of Central Virginia Family Physicians.

The likelihood of a Medicaid expansion happening soon is small.

Republicans are quick to remind Democrats that in the coming years, Washington will be decreasing its funding of the program, leaving Virginians to pay part of the bill.

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