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Health Experts: Medicaid Expansion Combats Cardiovascular Diseases

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has set a special session on April 11 to settle the budget with Medicaid expansion included. (Pixabay)
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has set a special session on April 11 to settle the budget with Medicaid expansion included. (Pixabay)
March 26, 2018

RICHMOND, Va. – As Gov. Ralph Northam outlines his plan to reintroduce his budget that includes Medicaid expansion for the April 11th special session, health-care advocates say the need for expansion is crucial for the hundreds of thousands in the coverage gap.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. It's often triggered by tobacco use and an unhealthy lifestyles. But opportunities to catch and treat the disease are lost on those without health insurance.

Dr. Shon Chakrabarti is an interventional cardiologist in Hampton Roads. He says he sees the need for Medicaid firsthand, as he treats many uninsured people in his clinic and at hospitals.

"All those risk factors are things that are modifiable if someone participates in health care earlier in life,” he says. “Potentially they can avoid then seeing me later in life for something as morbid as a heart attack. "

Recently Northam, a Democrat, reiterated his call for Medicaid expansion for the upcoming special session in April. The Republican-controlled Legislature adjourned over an impasse as the House supported the plan while the Senate opposed it over concerns about its long-term costs to the state.

Nearly 54,000 people in Hampton Roads localities could gain coverage if the Legislature approves Medicaid. If the state doesn't expand its eligibility, the very poorest and most vulnerable will likely remain uninsured.

For Donna Cywinski, her oldest son Adam was born without the tricuspid valve of his heart. She says for the 31 years of his life, it has been a roller coaster to find insurance coverage, and the uncertainty continues without Medicaid expansion.

"Somebody with a severe medical condition a heart condition,” she says, “how many young children are born every year with congenital heart disease and as soon as an insurance company finds out about that, they are put in some kind of special pool?"

A December poll showed that more than 80 percent of likely Virginia voters support an expansion. But the battle on whether the state will move forward with expansion falls on the Senate, where Majority Leader Tommy Norment from the Tidewater area is set on opposing the plan.

It's unclear if there will be an agreement by April 11th. State government will shut down on July 1st if no budget is passed.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - VA