Supporters of Medicaid expansion say they won't give up

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by Janet Roach, 13News Now

WVEC.com

Posted on June 12, 2014 at 6:09 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 12 at 6:09 PM

GLOUCESTER -- Administrators at the Gloucester-Matthews Care Clinic are anxious for the state to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

The free clinic currently serves 2000 uninsured patients -- 400 more for just medications. Half of those patients would qualify for Medicaid if it was expanded.

Since the clinic is a hybrid, it also takes Medicaid patients and many could continue to get care at the clinic.

Clinic Executive Director Kay Bradley says federal dollars that would flow to the state would benefit the clinic. In fact, they've planned for the money in the budget. Right now, the clinic runs off of private donations.

Bradley says if Medicaid expansion doesn't pass with the state budget, she's hopeful it will pass in the fall.
"We wouldn't be true to our mission as a free clinic if we didn't support Medicaid expansion," Bradley said. 

Two years ago, Barbara Bohan had to cancel her health insurance because the premiums were too high.

"The day that I canceled, I cried all day because I knew that my life would never be the same.  But it is thanks to the clinic, it is," Bohan said.

She recently had back surgery twice.

Hampton resident Gaylene Kanoyton started Celebrate Healthcare. The organization works to enroll the uninsured in Obamacare.  Many people have to be turned away because they don't qualify for a subsidy under Obamacare. At the same time, they don't qualify for Medicaid as it stands now.

"We did over 30 events. We saw over 3000 people -- enrolled over 1500 -- but we had to turn away 1500 to1600 people because of Medicaid expansion, because we don't have it," Kanoyton said.

And if many Republicans in the General Assembly have their way, Virginia will never get it. They say the current Medicaid system needs to be reformed first because they say it suffers from 'fraud and abuse.'

They also feel the federal government will break its promise to pay for the expansion, leaving Virginia to foot the bill.

The disagreement has lead to an impasse over the state budget. If a budget isn't approved by July 1, the government will shut down.

Democrats want the expansion tied to the budget. Republicans do not.

Meanwhile, state agencies wait to see if they'll have to shut their doors.

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