May 03, 2013
A really big deal
El Cabrero has been in a purple agony of waiting for the last few weeks. It had to do with when and whether WV Governor Earl Ray Tomblin would announce his decision to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Or not.
That step, if taken, would be the biggest advance for social justice that I've ever seen in this state. It would raise the eligibility level from around 35 percent of the federal poverty level to 138 percent. It would save lives, create jobs, and eliminate a lot of unnecessary misery.
Tomblin delayed his decision until he and his administration studied the results of an actuarial study about the likely results. Meanwhile, people who care about working families in this state have done everything they could to encourage a positive response and provide political cover.
By Tuesday afternoon, I heard unofficial rumors that a decision would be announce the following day--and that it was the right decision. By Tuesday night, it was official. On Wednesday, the expansion was officially announced at St. Francis Hospital in Charleston where over 100 people gathered for the occasion. Among the speakers was of course the governor but also Senator Jay Rockefeller, who fought hard to pass and improve the Affordable Care Act at the federal level.
It was a great day and a great step forward and will mean health coverage for lots of working West Virginians. Estimates range from 90,000+ to over 150,000 people. The number I've seen the most is 120,000. These are the people who serve our food, wait on us in stores, take care of our children and elderly and do all the low paid grunt work that keeps the world on the rails.
Thanks and congratulations to Governor Tomblin for taking this step!
Meanwhile, I keep thinking that something strange is happening in my beloved state. In the last few months, West Virginia has taken several steps in a positive direction. In addition to expanding health care, it made huge advances in universal early childhood education, which could help with all kinds of problems. It also passed an innovative law aimed at improving child nutrition and took some common sense steps towards reforming an overcrowded prison system while also restoring funding for child care for working families and for programs aimed at preventing family violence.
If this is a dream, don't wake me up.