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Adkins, Stanley differ on Medicaid

Sunday, June 29, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

State Sen. Bill Stanley’s budget amendment that barred the governor from expanding Medicaid without General Assembly approval is being criticized by Martinsville Mayor Kim Adkins, who hopes to win his legislative seat next year.

In a statement released by her campaign, Adkins accused Stanley of “fighting against Virginia’s working families” and stated that a delay in closing a health insurance coverage gap is hurting businesses.

Adkins has announced she will seek the Democratic nomination for the 20th District Senate seat in 2015. She is not seeking re-election to her Martinsville City Council seat in the Nov. 4 election.

During a recent special legislative session, Stanley, R-Glade Hill, sponsored a budget amendment declaring that a Medicaid expansion cannot occur unless the General Assembly appropriates money for it.

The rest of the Senate Republicans co-patroned the amendment, which passed in a 20-19 vote. A state budget then was adopted, but Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued several vetoes, including Stanley’s amendment.

House Speaker William Howell then said McAuliffe was outside the scope of his power.

Based on statistics she has seen, Adkins said in her statement that by the Medicaid expansion not being approved, “nearly 16,000 working individuals” will be denied access to health insurance and preventive health care.

Those are people who “don’t make enough (salary) to qualify for insurance but make too much to qualify for Medicaid,” she said in an interview Friday.

According to Adkins, officials with LifePoint Hospitals, which owns Memorial Hospital in Martinsville, have said that the West Piedmont Planning District — of which Martinsville-Henry County is part — “stands to benefit most” from a Medicaid expansion because it has many residents “who fit that category.”

Not expanding Medicaid also “reflects a complete disregard” for hospitals, which are among the area’s largest employers, her statement said.

Memorial and other hospitals in the region have stated they are “not going to be able to offer the same level of services” without a Medicaid expansion, Adkins said. Reducing services will mean job losses, she predicted.

“We don’t want to lose any jobs in this region. We’ve lost our fair share” already, Adkins said, adding that hospital jobs are “good, career jobs” that pay well.

Adkins said her campaign issued her statement because she believes the public is being misinformed about Medicaid expansion due to partisanship in the General Assembly over the issue.

It is Adkins who is misinformed, Stanley said in an interview Friday.

“Throwing money at” Medicaid to make more people eligible for the program “is not the answer” to making health care more affordable, he said.

Medicaid is “a flawed system” that already accounts for roughly 21 percent of the state’s budget,” and amounts budgeted for Medicaid are increasing at about 8 percent annually, said Stanley.

“We can’t sustain that” without raising taxes or reducing spending on public safety and/or education, “which is crazy,” he said.

“It’s irresponsible to expand (Medicaid) ... without cutting waste, fraud and abuse in the system,” Stanley continued.

Adkins “fundamentally forgets,” he said, “there’s a difference between access to health care and health care coverage.”

Only 1 out of 3 doctors in Virginia now see Medicaid patients, and “most are not accepting new (Medicaid) patients,” he said.

The General Assembly plans to hold a special session around September to try and work out the Medicaid dilemma, Stanley said.

Rather than expanding Medicaid, he said, “we need a reform of the health care industry” to ensure that “all Virginians have affordable, efficient care.”

Stanley said he will ask the General Assembly to develop a pilot program to “revolutionize how the health care delivery system works in rural areas.”

The program would emphasize preventive care to try and keep people from getting sick as well as “telemedicine” — health care workers using electronic technology to remotely evaluate and treat patients, thus preventing them from having to travel for medical care, according to Stanley.

That would “lessen the emergency rooms from being used like doctor’s offices” by people who cannot afford care at private clinics, he said.

Ultimately, it would save hospitals money which, in turn, would lower health care costs, he added.

Stanley disputed Adkins’ claim that, as he put it, “I don’t care about the working poor.”

He said he has drafted various bills that eventually became law and focus on workforce development, improving educational opportunities and other things involved in “breaking the poverty cycle.”


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