Va. governor pushes for Medicaid expansion, says there are no more excuses

Updated: Mar. 27, 2017 at 5:37 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - "No more excuses!" That's what Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is telling state lawmakers as he makes another push to expand Medicaid before he leaves office.

He says 400,000 Virginians will benefit, but Republicans say the governor has not said anything that will change their minds.

Supporters of Medicaid expansion say low income and communities of color will benefit most from this type of health care coverage. Governor McAuliffe believes the entire Commonwealth will benefit from it.

"If we can bring $2.5 billion back a year, create a lot of jobs and provide healthcare, why wouldn't we do it? This is our money," he said.

That's why the governor is proposing a budget amendment giving him the power to expand Medicaid on Oct. 1. McAuliffe says now that Obamacare is here to stay, he's fed up with the opposition.

"We're done," he said. "There are no more excuses. The President of the Untied States of America, who ran on repeal, admitted on Friday that he's just going to let it stay."

In a statement, Virginia House Republican leaders, who are the majority, say it's the wrong policy for the Commonwealth. They worry about future budget deficits and said, "Every dollar spent on Medicaid is one less that can be spent on education, transportation, or public safety. Every federal dollar not spent on expanding a broken program is a dollar not borrowed from future generations."

Governor McAuliffe warns Virginia could get left behind.

"It's here to stay," said Governor McAuliffe. "Other states are now going to move forward, so we could be in a place next year where our surrounding states - North Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland - all have taken the expansion coverage, and we're sitting here, not having brought that money back."

Lawmakers meet again on April 5 for a veto session, and the topic of Medicaid expansion will more than likely be brought up. The House says, it will be rejected.

The Governor told reporters his door is open for negotiation. The statement from the Governor's office:

Governor Terry McAuliffe proposed a budget amendment restoring his authority to pursue planning for Medicaid expansion. The Governor made the decision to include the amendment following last week's news that the AHCA, President Trump's replacement for Obamacare, failed to receive the necessary support in Congress. 
"Failing to expand Medicaid has cost Virginia $10.4 billion and has left 400,000 of our residents without healthcare," said Governor McAuliffe. "President Trump's attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act failed and even Speaker Ryan has said that Obamacare is the law of the land for the foreseeable future. The time has come for us to bring our taxpayer dollars back to serve the individuals who need them the most. With this amendment, I'm asking the General Assembly to work with me to pursue Medicaid expansion and put this funding to work for our most vulnerable Virginians"
The Governor's proposed amendment restores authority for him, on or after October 1, 2017, to direct the Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) to expand Medicaid if the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) remains in place at that time. Any savings would be reserved for appropriation by the 2018 General Assembly. This measure guarantees a rapid response to the evolving health care landscape and ensures that Virginians can take advantage of any new opportunities presented by changes in federal programs. 
"As a doctor, I have a firsthand understanding of the enormous benefits of having access to quality and affordable healthcare. Moreover, every day we don't expand Medicaid, Virginians send millions of dollars of their taxes to other states. It is time to put politics aside, and do what is right— from both a moral and business perspective— and expand Medicaid for up to 400,000 hardworking Virginians," said Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam.

The full statement from House Republican leaders:

Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford), Speaker-designee M. Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), Majority Leader-designee C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), Republican Caucus Chairman Timothy D. Hugo (R-Fairfax), and House Majority Whip Jackson H. Miller (R-Manassas) released the following statement Monday on Governor McAuliffe's Medicaid Expansion proposal.

"The House Republican majority remains strongly opposed to implementing ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion in Virginia. We rejected expansion in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and again in 2017 because it was the wrong policy for the Commonwealth. The lack of action in Washington has not changed that and in fact, the uncertainty of federal health policy underscores the need to be cautious over the long term. This is a very complex issue with many moving parts. It would be irresponsible to rush Medicaid expansion like Congress rushed ObamaCare.

"Evidence in other states continues to show that Virginia's decision not to expand Medicaid is the right decision. Nearly every state that expanded Medicaid saw higher than projected enrollment which in some cases led to large budget deficits. Virginia can barely afford our current program, much less an expansion. Every dollar spent on Medicaid is one less that can be spent on education, transportation, or public safety. Every federal dollar not spent on expanding a broken program is a dollar not borrowed from future generations. Betting the fiscal future of the Commonwealth on an I.O.U. from Washington is a bad idea.

"The House and Senate rejected a similar amendment to what Governor McAuliffe is proposing during the 2017 regular session. The House will reject the Governor's amendment when we reconvene on April 5 and ensure that Virginia does not expand Medicaid under ObamaCare."

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