Having access to health care through Medicaid, he said, will allow poor residents to be more productive members of the work force.
Under the Affordable Care Act, states have the option to expand Medicaid to cover those making 138 percent of the federal poverty line.
The federal government would pay the entire cost for the new Medicaid recipients for the first three years, before phasing the federal funds down to a 90 percent of the cost.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has not said whether he supports expanding Medicaid or not.
Boettner said the decision to expand should be a "no-brainer."
"We don't have the money to not do it," Boettner said. "We will save dramatically. It's a great deal for West Virginia."
By Boettner's estimations, expanding Medicaid will bring $3.7 billion in new federal health-care funding to West Virginia over the next six years. West Virginia's share would be about 4 percent, he said.
It also would cut down on uncompensated care, which will benefit hospitals and insurance companies, Boettner said. Having Medicaid coverage would allow residents to spend their money elsewhere, further helping the economy, he said.
In addition to expanding Medicaid, Boettner said, the state should consider raising the minimum wage and forming a task force to tackle poverty issues.
Reach Lori Kersey at lori.ker...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.