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By Anna Benyo, Senior Health Policy Analyst, National Women's Law Center
Cross-posted from NWLC's blog

It’s been an exciting few weeks for advocates who are urging Governors and state legislators to say yes! Last June, the Supreme Court upheld the health care law but let states choose whether or not to take the Affordable Care Act’s funding for covering more people through the Medicaid program. Ever since then, Virginia advocates have had their work cut out for them—making phone calls, knocking on doors, and educating anyone who will listen about the important benefits to the state of Virginia, hospitals and health systems, and to the women and families who will gain the most.

Last weekend, Virginia took a big step forward. The two-year state budget includes a compromise proposal that could lead to Virginia extending coverage to approximately 350,000 Virginians who currently lack health insurance. Under this proposal, a legislative committee will ultimately determine whether the expansion will move forward. Governor McDonnell is currently reviewing this legislation.

What’s at stake by covering more people?

  • Approximately 169,000 Virginian women would gain health insurance coverage
  • Combined with other reforms in the Affordable Care Act, it could reduce the percentage of uninsured women in Virginia from 17 % to 4 %
  • Accepting the money could save Virginia approximately $424 million in uncompensated care costs over the next ten years

Women with Medicaid coverage will receive a comprehensive set of health benefits, such as mammograms and other preventive health screenings, birth control, and treatment for chronic conditions. In addition to increasing access to health care and improving health outcomes, Medicaid increases women’s economic security.

But here is the most important thing to remember: having health insurance brings peace of mind so that hard-working families have the security of health coverage and can avoid big medical bills.

Let’s hope Governor McDonnell and legislators in both the House of Delegates and Senate can come together and agree that not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s good for Virginia.

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