The Executive Director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care admits any expansion of Medicaid in the Mountain State must come with reforms to reduce the costs of the health care coverage program.

“We’re willing to deal with the costs of Medicaid,” Perry Bryant said.

“But we need to expand, take the money that Congress has already set aside to help our friends and neighbors and make sure that they have health care coverage and can get access when the need it.”

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has not yet decided whether West Virginia will be taking an option, created within the Affordable Care Act, to expand Medicaid eligibility from the current 130% of the poverty level to 138% of the poverty level.

The change could potentially add 120,000 low income West Virginians to the 415,000 who currently qualify for Medicaid coverage.  With the expansion, individuals making up to $15,000 a year would qualify.

“These are uninsured West Virginians,” Bryant said on Wednesday’s MetroNews Talkline of the people who could potentially meet the criteria.  “They’re getting health insurance right now.  They’re just getting it in a very inefficient way.”

Critics of the possible expansion of Medicaid say the state cannot afford it.  At the current coverage levels, West Virginia’s share of Medicaid, which is now at $870 million annually, will grow to $900 million next year and even more in the coming years.

As proposed, the federal government would pay for 100% of the added costs of Medicaid expansion through 2017, but reduce that contribution to 90% by 2020.  There are concerns the federal subsidy of the expansion would decrease even more in subsequent years.

Governor Tomblin has asked for a full study of the potential costs of the expansion of Medicaid.  The results of that study are expected to be finalized by next month.

Bryant, however, sees the expansion of Medicaid as an economic development opportunity. He says it could create 6,000 health jobs in West Virginia and potentially generate more than $664 million in economic activity by 2016.

“There is no jobs bill that the Governor will consider in his tenure that will have a greater impact on jobs and economic activity than the expansion of Medicaid,” Bryant said.

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  • Damion45

    "As proposed, the federal government would pay for 100% of the added costs of Medicaid expansion through 2017, but reduce that contribution to 90% by 2020."

    Where is the federal government getting all this money? Is China going to buy our debt for the next decade? Are we just going to print money and hope inflation stays away (it won't)? The 50% who pay their taxes are getting stuck with it and the next major economic calamity will put all these grand plans deep into the ditch.

  • j.p.greene

    Ummm,'s interesting that you ASSume that people who are not in favor of the new healthcare plan get our info from FOX and Tea Party propaganda. I've actually studied the law, itself...we can read. Maybe, and I'll be like you, you get your info from MSNBC or..CNN...or THE TODAY SHOW

  • susanf

    Before the Medicaid Program is expanded, it needs to be reviewed and reformed. Too many people are already getting "medical cards", apparently w/no questions asked as to income, household size, etc. This is espcially true in regard to pregnant women, some of whom apparently COULD afford and get private health insurance but choose to not do so and instead just get Medicaid coverage, no questions asked, which is paid for by you and me and every other taxpayer. Close the damn loopholes that allow this and make sure that the Medicaid system looks at income, household size, AND availability of other health insurance options BEFORE issuing medical cards!!

  • Sherry

    West Virginians need to research Obamacare before posting comments. Ignorance is not bliss. And when you rely on Fox & Tea Party commenters you are not getting the entire picture.

  • Roger

    Most of these politicians here and around the country know they can extend this benefits and be long gone before the major costs have to paid.

    If Tomblin does the right thing, I'll be surprised.

  • JBinWV

    Earl Ray needs to be called every day to tell him NOT TO DO THIS. Call the Legislature as well. Setting up the exchanges and expanding Medicare will break this state.

  • wvtd

    NO obamacare.

  • C.Hoffman

    There are lies, damn lies and everything Perry Bryant said. West Virginian's and West Virginia will lose and lose big under implementation of the fiscal, medical and Constitutional disaster known as obamacare. The CBO has already indicated their initial estimates of the cost of obamacare have increased 300% and it won't take effect until 2014. What do you think the cost will be by then? Just say NO!!!

  • James Dietz

    NO! Do not expand the Medicaid program.

    I do have a suggestion however.

    When I go to the dentist or eye doctor or if my daughter goes to the medical doctor, none of which is covered by any insurance, we get billed the full amount.

    Now lets say it's the dentist and I am having an extraction. I would be billed $100.00.

    If I had Insurance they would be billed $80.00 and would pay $64.00 and I would pay the other $16.00.

    That's all well and good but why does the provider (dentist, doctor, etc) not just charge the person paying out of pocket the $80.00? These people need the discount as much as the Insurance company if not more.