Virginia set to expand Medicaid, as Senate OKs proposal

Pearl Mccarthy
June 2, 2018

"After a long and frustrating debate, the Senate finally passed a two-year budget that includes Medicaid Expansion", McPike wrote.

In the end, a handful of Republican Senators joined every Senate Democrat to vote in favor of expanding Medicaid.

Yet ironically, his administration's embrace of work requirements for low-income people on Medicaid prompted lawmakers in some conservative states to resurrect plans to expand health care for the poor.

I know I have been predicting for months that a biennial budget would be passed for the Commonwealth and that it would include an expansion of health care coverage for those who are not now eligible for Medicaid. A majority of the newly elected House voted weeks ago to pass the budget with Medicaid expansion in it. The House quickly followed about an hour later with a lopsided 67-31 final endorsement.

"This budget is the culmination of five years of effort to bring our taxpayer dollars home from Washington and expand Medicaid". Republicans in Virginia's General Assembly have resisted Medicaid expansion for years, despite the fact that 61 percent of residents supported it as early as September 2014. Republicans had previously blocked past expansion efforts, saying the long-term costs were unsustainable. Ben Chafin, a Republican lawmaker from Virginia's economically depressed southwest coal country, announced his support for expansion on the Senate floor. He said his rural area needs expansion to bolster its hospitals and provide care for constituents.

Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin, who opposed Medicaid expansion, called the budget "a ticking time bomb" and said lawmakers are spending money like they're "drunk in New Orleans". Currently, 32 states and the District of Columbia have expanded their Medicaid programs under the law, which ensures the federal government will cover 90 percent of the cost, compared with 50 percent under Virginia's current Medicaid program.

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Some GOP senators objected to expansion because they anxious the Trump administration could renege on ObamaCare's funding agreement, leaving Virginia to cover the entirety of the expansion costs. The other would be to seek a waiver from President Donald Trump's administration to impose a series of conditions on eligibility, including a work requirement and cost-sharing provisions for recipients.

The approval didn't come with out last-minute drama: Thomas Norment, the Senate majority chief and steadfast opponent of Medicaid growth, tried unsuccessfully to dam it within the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, and once more on the Senate ground on Wednesday, when he pushed to go a model of the funds that didn't embody it.

Chafin, the Republican from Russell, defended his decision to support Medicaid expansion and the core public services he said enhanced federal funding would enable the state to afford. They plan to hear from former U.S. Sen.

Last year, Virginia saw its state legislature reshaped by an anti-Trump wave as Democrats made unexpectedly large gains in the state House. It will expand health care for up to 400,000 people who need it.

This story has been corrected the misspelling of House Speaker Kirk Cox's first name.

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