Medicaid expansion in VA now under serious review

Published: Jun. 17, 2013 at 9:52 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 27, 2013 at 11:12 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A hot button issue brought hundreds of demonstrators to the State Capitol on Monday. More than 200 showed up as the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission met for the first time to review changes to the Medicaid program.

Both sides are giving their reasons for and against Medicaid expansion, but the commission said we're still in the beginning process of trying to understand that type of change.

Expansion could mean coverage for 400,000 more people in the state. Opponents say, right now, the Medicaid program is a broken system.

"The idea really is to get everybody dependent on government - somebody has got to pay for that, and I think a lot of it is going to be waste," said Senator Dick Black with District 13, who is against Medicaid expansion.

Across the Capitol grounds, a smaller group in favor of the expansion gathered. These demonstrators believe it will provide much needed health care for the uninsured.

"It would bring in billions of dollars from the federal government, which are our federal tax payments," said Jill Hanken, who is for Medicaid expansion. "Bring those billions of dollars back to Virginia to support the healthcare industry."

Both sides sat in for the first MIRC meeting. This panel is responsible for making sure the state complies with changes to Medicaid under the federal-state healthcare program. More than anything, the commission want to make sure it's cost-effective.

"We really have a challenge here," said Senator Emmett Hanger Jr. "We cannot do nothing in Virginia. We have a great system of healthcare, but it's becoming increasingly unaffordable for not only the poor but the middle class."

The panel told the crowd: no final word on the hot button issue today, but they promise their review will be thorough - because both sides are watching.

The commission's next meeting is scheduled for August. The MIRC is made up of five senators, five delegates and two members of Governor McDonnell's cabinet.

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