CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Expanding Medicaid in West Virginia would create about 6,200 new jobs across the state in 2016, according to a study released today by the West Virginians for Affordable Health Care and Families USA.
Under the federal Affordable Care Act, West Virginia, like other states, has the option to expand Medicaid to those who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. For an individual, a person could make up to $15,000 and still be eligible for the program.
If the state expands, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the expansion at first and the federal share would drop to 90 percent in the future.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has not decided whether the state will expand Medicaid. He has said he's waiting for the results of an actuarial study about the costs of the expansion. Those results are expected in March.
The economic study released Tuesday -- for which WVAHC and Families USA contracted with economic forecasting agency REMI -- estimates that in 2016 if Medicaid were expanded, $539 million would be spent on health care delivered in West Virginia.
Perry Bryant, executive director of WVAHC, said expanding Medicaid would be the single greatest thing Tomblin could do to expand the state's economy.
"It's great to have Macy's to open up a new warehouse in the Eastern Panhandle, and we're delighted that Gestamp is opening up at the Charleston Stamping & Manufacturing facility," Bryant said at a news conference Tuesday. "But all of those activities, those accomplishments, as significant as they are, don't come anywhere near the volume of jobs or the economic activity that expanding Medicaid would have."
The money generated by Medicaid expansion not only would have a direct effect on the economy by paying for health-related services but also would create jobs and earnings for others who are not associated with health care, according to the report.
For example, a hospital may spend money on facility upgrades that leads to more construction jobs. Health-care employees will spend their income at local restaurants or buying new cars, the study states.
Besides the increase in jobs, expanding Medicaid would reduce the amount of money the state spends on uncompensated care, or the money used to care for uninsured people who seek medical care and cannot pay for it.
The West Virginia Hospital Association reported that in 2009, the state's hospitals absorbed $292 million in caring for insured people whose incomes were below the poverty line. That number would be reduced if Medicaid were expanded, the state concluded.