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Today’s top opinion: Across the board

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2014 General Assembly

Sunday’s Times-Dispatch reported on “Virginia’s Uninsured” — i.e., the individuals and families who lack health insurance. Who are they? The answer includes almost every demographic category and cannot be reduced to a symbolic face. Partisan rhetoric often distorts the picture; news coverage can depend on those willing to go on the record regarding their experiences.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the uninsured cross many lines. About 16.3 percent of the national population has no health insurance. When broken down by age, the cohort least likely to have insurance is 18 to 34 (29.7 percent). The cohort most likely to enjoy coverage is 65 or older. The socialized program known as Medicare does a comprehensive job, which might explain why opponents of Obamacare said “hands off Medicare” during the debate leading to Obamacare’s enactment.

Regarding race, about 16 percent of whites lack insurance while about 21 percent of blacks, 17 percent of Asians and 32 percent of Hispanics do. Only the numbers for Hispanics suggest significant disparities. The statistics relating to income reflect the obvious: People on the lower end of the income scale are far less likely to have health insurance than people on the higher end of it.

The issue, on the whole, does not involve race. Economic status seems more important than color. Race affects economic status, let us not forget, but race alone does not explain the coverage gap. Depictions of uninsured blacks that go unbalanced by depictions of uninsured whites encourage a false impression.

The General Assembly is in the midst of a budget stalemate caused primarily by Medicaid expansion. The Senate has approved a Marketplace Virginia package, promoted by Republican John Watkins and other adults, that would rely on private insurers to meet the needs of the uninsured. The Republican-dominated House of Delegates says no. Proposals that not only address Medicaid expansion (even by private means) but also are associated with Obamacare appear destined to incite ideological adolescents. Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s bid for a so-called pilot program to expand traditional Medicaid has complicated the equation.

Marketplace Virginia is the way to go. It is the type of alternative conservatives interested in governing and in serving the entire citizenry should embrace.


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