Virginia finds it will save a billion dollars with Medicaid expansion. Guess what happens next?

Virginia Capitol

Virginia Capitol

The secretary of health and human resources of Virginia, who was hired by a Republican governor, just issued a report showing the state would save a huge amount of money if it expanded Medicaid.

While an earlier estimate found savings of $137 million through 2022, the new estimate of savings to the state is over a billion dollars.

You read that right. The state would save over a billion dollars.

Now, you may ask, tell me, again, who conducted the study? And why did the estimate change?

Virginia conducted the study in-house, without an external consultant, with work on the study starting in the summer of 2013.

“We have been working on these numbers for a long time,” said Hazel, who was appointed health secretary in 2010 by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) and retained by McAuliffe. “It serves no purpose to try to play with the numbers.”

Hazel told reporters Wednesday that he was surprised by the amount of savings in the new estimate, which includes data from states that have launched their own Medicaid expansions. Understanding of the health-care law has evolved over time, he said, along with data about the uninsured population.

The savings come from higher estimates of how many indigent patients would newly qualify for Medicaid, as well as better estimates of how much their care would cost, according to state officials. [source]

Research and new data show how costs can be controlled and allow better estimates of the actual savings from expanding Medicaid.

Another study, by the Congressional Budget Office, led the federal agency to reduce its estimate of future growth in Medicaid costs by 16%.

What happened next shows the power of ideology

Opponents of Medicaid expansion in Virginia were, well, let’s put it this way: They were not impressed.

Republicans say that the program improperly expands the role of government — and that the federal government can’t afford it.

“I have not had a chance to look at these numbers. But my position has not changed,” said the House Appropriations Committee chairman, S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk).

A Medicaid expansion in Virginia would cover 400,000 people and save over a billion dollars. That’s a lot of money taxpayers could save and a lot of low-income working people (who are also taxpayers) who would gain coverage.

The new governor, a Democrat who replaced a Republican, supports moving forward, but the prospects for expansion after that election and after these new estimates, are not necessarily positive.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.