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2/21/2013 2:34:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Two-thirds of Washingtonians support Medicaid expansion

Mary Kay Clunies-Ross

Two-thirds of Washington state residents support the expansion of Medicaid in Washington State, believing that it will help people in their communities, according to a recent poll conducted by Stuart Elway of more than 400 Washington residents.

Washington State legislators must decide this legislative session whether to accept millions of dollars in federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage to residents who are currently without health coverage. This expansion of coverage will allow the state to save approximately $225 million in the first two years, and provide health care to hundreds of thousands residents who are currently living without it.

"Most people know someone who is uninsured in our state, so we're not surprised that people are supportive of expanding health coverage to more Washingtonians," said Molly Belozer Firth, Director of Public Policy for the Community Health Network of Washington (CHNW). "Community health centers are committed to Medicaid expansion and expect that 170,000 of the uninsured patients we are currently serving will be eligible for Medicaid under the expansion. It is a clear choice for our state to save lives and money."

Research has shown that Medicaid coverage can make immediate improvements to people's physical and mental health, and general well-being. Washington State currently has about a million uninsured people, many of whom are working at jobs that do not offer health insurance. Without insurance, these people have a greater risk of prolonged illnesses, disability, and death.

"The recession drove many of our neighbors into unemployment and under-employment," said Ingrid McDonald, Advocacy Director of AARP. "It was especially hard on workers over 50, who are struggling to get back into the labor market and face high premiums for individual insurance. The Medicaid expansion will allow them to be healthy when they reenter the job market, and healthier when they qualify for Medicare. It makes sound financial sense to expand Medicaid now."

The expansion of Medicaid will allow very-low income adults to get preventive and emergency care. Single adults earning up to $16,000 a year and families of three earning up to $27,000 a year will qualify.

"All day, every day, there are patients in our Emergency Departments who are unnecessarily suffering from completely treatable and manageable conditions," said Cassie Sauer, Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Government Affairs at the Washington State Hospital Association. "Because they don't have a primary care doctor or any other regular access to health care, they are losing years of their lives to manageable diseases like diabetes and asthma. And people with untreated infectious diseases such as the flu are putting the entire community at risk. It's the smart thing to do, and it's the right thing to do."

Mary Kay Clunies-Ross is vice president of communications and public affairs for the Washington State Hospital Association. She can be reached at (206) 216-2894 or by email at: MaryKayCR@wsha.org.



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