VA Republicans gear up for legal battle over Medicaid expansion - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

VA Republicans gear up for legal battle over Medicaid expansion

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Virginia Republicans are unleashing a major attack on the governor's push for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. GOP lawmakers revealed a lengthy legal argument, Thursday, setting the grounds for a possible lawsuit over healthcare in Virginia.

The analysis outlines legal arguments of why Republicans say it's unconstitutional for the governor to move forward with a Medicaid expansion on his own. The move sets the stage for what could be a heated battle in court.

Republican lawmakers hired a well-known, political attorney in D.C. to draft the opinion paper, costing taxpayers $25,000. The major take-away of the document is that the power to dish out any funds, including for Medicaid, belongs to Virginia's General Assembly and not the governor.

"Last week the governor made it very clear that he intends to ignore the will of the people and their elected representatives by trying to unilaterally implement some form of Medicaid expansion in Virginia," said Republican House Speaker William Howell, R-Stafford. "We suspected for a while that the governor may try to circumvent the legislative branch."

Democrats see the legal preparation for a potential lawsuit as premature and unfounded.

"What we're seeing from the Republicans, is once again, a continuation of their desperate attempts to block out 400,000 Virginians from getting Medicaid expansion," said Senator Donald McEachin, D-Henrico.

The governor has asked his administration to put together a Medicaid expansion plan to present in the coming months. Democrats say there are several methods the governor could choose in doing that. However, it's unclear what road the governor will take. Regardless, a representative from Governor McAuliffe's office says the governor will put forward a Medicaid expansion plan well within his authority.  

"Virginians deserve leaders who are more focused on expanding health coverage than they are on lawyering up just in case they need to sue to keep their constituents from getting lifesaving care," said spokesperson Brian Coy in a statement from Governor Terry McAuliffe's office.

VCU professor and political analyst Bill Oglesby says regardless of what lawsuit might go before a judge, the ultimate problem boils down to divided politics. 

"The fact of the matter is, while there are many legal issues involved here, and important legal issues, this is essentially a political tug-of-war," said Oglesby.

There's no telling when a lawsuit might be filed. Republicans say they will take action if the governor starts making real moves to expand Medicaid in Virginia.

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