Wellmont Leaders Discuss with Gov. Mcauliffe Importance of Expanding Medicaid in Virginia

NORTON, Va. – Wellmont Health System leaders shared on Tuesday, March 4, with Gov. Terry McAuliffe the short-term and long-term benefit to the community of expanding Medicaid.

McAuliffe listened to representatives of health systems and the Wise County Chamber of Commerce and other community stakeholders during a roundtable discussion at the University of Virginia-Wise Convocation Center. Joining him was Dr. Bill Hazel, Virginia’s secretary of health and human services.

McAuliffe and Dr. Hazel also spent time seeing where the rubber meets the road in health care during visits to Mountain View Regional Medical Center and The Health Wagon, a nonprofit organization that provides mobile health services to the medically underserved in Southwest Virginia.

“We appreciate Gov. McAuliffe for taking time to come to Southwest Virginia and learn more about the benefits of expanding Medicaid in this region,” said Denny DeNarvaez, Wellmont’s president and CEO. “Gov. McAuliffe understands the value of investing in his constituents’ health by insuring more residents of the commonwealth, and he is a powerful advocate for this cause, which affects our region tremendously.”

So far, Virginia and Tennessee have not enacted Medicaid expansion, which will allow for coverage of people whose healthcare costs are now being borne by health systems who treat them and those people who have insurance. If Virginia were to accept the additional Medicaid dollars, the commonwealth could support those who do not have health coverage and reduce overall costs for everyone else.

McAuliffe strongly articulated his stand in support of Medicaid expansion, telling his audiences it could lead to insurance coverage for 400,000 Virginians. By not expanding Medicaid, he said $20 billion in federal taxes that could come to Virginia to help provide health care to those who qualify will instead go to other states that have decided to fill the coverage gap.

The stance opponents have taken is akin to paying gas taxes to the federal government but not receiving any of those funds to make improvements to road systems, McAuliffe said.

“This is not a political issue,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do morally, socially and economically. We have received support on this issue from healthcare organizations, the business community and the Virginia Senate. Now, we just need the Virginia House of Delegates to step to the plate.”

Expanding Medicaid to serve patients at 133 percent of the federal poverty level is also essential for the financial well-being of hospitals and health systems. When patients have some form of insurance, they are not only equipped with an important tool to better their health, they are providing additional income to not-for-profit organizations, such as Wellmont.

In turn, Wellmont is able to use that revenue to enhance care for everyone in the region. But DeNarvaez said Wellmont is not seeing many financial elements of healthcare reform that were designed to help health systems and people in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee.

“The governor recognizes the importance of advancing the quality of life for everyone in Virginia,” DeNarvaez said. “We are focused on improving people’s lives for the long haul, and Medicaid expansion will empower us to continue meeting the needs of patients in our rural Southwest Virginia facilities effectively. We look forward to working with the governor, Secretary Hazel and the rest of his administration going forward to achieve optimal health care for everyone we serve.”