Medicaid Expansion

POFEV Supports Medicaid Expansion

Robin_head_shot_blue.JPGOn October 15, 2013, POFEV President, Rev. Dr. Robin Gorsline, joined hundreds of other Virginians at a public hearing called by the Virginia Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission, to support expansion of Medicaid in Virginia to 400,000 Virginians eligible for Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Many LGBT people are single—for many reasons of course, but a primary one in Virginia is the lack of marriage.—and many of those single LGBT people are poor.  Under current Virginia law, no single person—unless they are elderly, or disabled, or caring for a minor child—may receive Medicaid, no matter what their economic circumstances or health status may be. Thus, expansion offers an important aid to the well-being of the population POFEV seeks to serve.

Medicaid_expansion_symbols.jpgThe Commission hearing room was packed—more than 150 speakers signed up. Robin was Speaker #86, and spoke during the fifth hour of the hearing. The majority of speakers favored expansion, but there were passionate voices against it as well, a sign that we have much to do to educate people about the health care needs of Virginia’s working poor.

The following is POFEV’s prepared testimony, which also was submitted in writing to the Commission.

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Senator Hanger and Delegate Landes, and all members of the Commission:

I rise as the president of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia, known as POFEV, an interfaith network of clergy and laypersons who work together in congregation and community for equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Virginians—a segment of Virginia whose well-being we too often ignore. And I am here because the LGBT community has a higher rate of being uninsured than the general population—about one-third uninsured compared to about 16% of the general population.

I am a Christian minister, but I speak from the intersection of values held by all the major religions in our Commonwealth.  A key part of those values is the strength of community and our mutual responsibility to care for one another. All our major faith traditions – Christian, Jewish, Islamic, and Buddhist – place high value on community, what we in Virginia call “commonwealth.”

working_poor_families.pngHowever, our “commonwealth” has failed the working poor in Virginia with regard to health care.  And it is there that the plight of the working poor and of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Virginians intersect.  Many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Virginians are poor, and because of the legal precariousness of their relationships, they are even more at risk.  I want to raise up one person from the congregation I used to serve. She is in her 40s. She has had a rough life, with little family support. She is single. She helped raised a boy born to her partner, but then their relationship failed, like so many marriages do, and it was not legally recognized. She is a waitress. She is diabetic, with other chronic health issues. She has no health insurance. She works as much as she can, but her health sometimes causes her to miss work. She often gets near the end of the month and must choose between rent, food or medicine. Medicine often loses, and the cycle is repeated.

The exchanges and subsidies in Obamacare may help her, and others. But frankly, I do not think it is a sure thing, because without access to Medicaid her finances may make even Obamacare out of reach.  As a result, she may continue to suffer unless Virginia changes its policy of prohibiting single people—unless they are elderly, or suffer from certified disability, or have legal responsibility for children—from being eligible for Medicaid in Virginia.

Virginia_welcome_sign.jpgSo, I stand before you today, asking that you pay at least as much attention to the needs of people traditionally excluded from the care of society as to the needs of those who fear what such care may cost us in the future. I say it that way because I do not deny we must pay attention to cost, but precisely because we must pay attention to it, not only to the fiscal cost but to the larger cost we bear as a society made less healthy and whole as it is torn into segments of those who thrive because the social order works for them and those who merely survive, or perhaps not even survive, because the social order does not work for them. 

If we truly wish to be the Commonwealth, the common wealth, we say we are, then we will adopt policies that serve all. In that light, I urge you to expand Medicaid, and to do so now.  

POFEV (People of Faith for Equality in Virginia), P.O. Box 4919, Richmond, VA 23220 •