Monday, 18 June, 2018

Gridlock over: Virginia lawmakers approve Medicaid expansion - 5/30/2018 7:29:15 PM

FAIRFAX VA- NOVEMBER 07 Gov.-elect Ralph Northam and Lt. Gov.-elect Justin Fairfax greet supporters at an election night rally Virginia Senate Democrats and rogue Republicans pass to vote for Medicaid expansion
Melissa Porter | 03 June, 2018, 16:25

The Republican-controlled Senate voted Wednesday in favor of a state budget expanding Medicaid and the House of Delegates, which had previously backed the measure, gave its final approval shortly afterward. While voters called health care a priority in exit polls, some Senate Republicans blamed the GOP losses in November on an anti-Trump wave, not pro-Medicaid fervor.

Republican holdouts in the Senate saw the carnage past year when Democrats flipped 15 House seats, but they were insulated since they were not on the ballot.

In a odd turn of events, former Pennsylvania Sen.

In addition to the Commonwealth state, proponents in three other states are attempting to pass measures to expand the program.

The vote makes Virginia the 33rd state to approve Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, according to figures compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The move also reflected the state's sharp shift to the left in the 2017 elections in which Democrats picked up 15 seats in the House of Delegates and nearly took control of the body. Several Republicans in both chambers joined with Democrats to support Medicaid expansion after years of partisan battle on the issue. Emmett Hanger of Augusta County, Jill Vogel of Fauquier County, Frank Wagner of Virginia Beach, and Ben Chafin of Russell County...sided with the 19-member Democratic minority.

Teresa Gardner Tyson, executive director of the Health Wagon in far Southwest Virginia, said Medicaid expansion will help improve her community's overall health and help her clinic focus more on providing care rather than chasing grant money. But in Virginia, Democrats have gone on offense. "While they keep voting for health care repeal and sabotaging the system, Virginia voters demanded - and won - expanded coverage". A fight over Medicaid expansion led to a standoff over the state budget in 2014 and again this year.

The Senate-approved plan would also require people making above the federal poverty limit to pay more for out-of-pocket care, another Republican request.

The Virginia legislation covers the state's share of the expenses via an assessment on hospitals. However, like Virginia, Utah would also impose work requirements with its expansion.

Sen. Mark Obernshain, R-Rockingham, countered that one aspect of the bill, a hospital tax to fund the state's portion of expansion, was tantamount to an increase in the income tax "That's a $600 million a year tax increase that is going to get passed straight through", he said. The Trump administration has been vocal that it is willing to allow states more flexibility to design their programs through waivers.

"This budget is the culmination of five years of effort to bring our taxpayer dollars home from Washington and expand Medicaid". Under this formula, Virginia will receive about $2 billion a year. Estimates say about 400,000 Virginians would be eligible if Medicaid expanded. The uninsured rate would fall to 10.9% in 2019, down from 14.9%, an Urban Institute analysis found. "By passing this budget, the Senate made a clear statement that Virginia is a place where leaders still work together to get things done for the people who send us here". Childless, non-disabled adults can't sign up now, while parents can qualify only if their income is below $6,900 for a family of three. Childless adults are not eligible, and working parents can not earn more than 30 percent of the federal poverty level, or $5,727 a year.