Monday, 20 August, 2018

Virginia Senate passes budget with Medicaid expansion

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on March 21 in Richmond with Aubrey Lane the state’s secretary of finance Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on March 21 in Richmond with Aubrey Lane the state’s secretary of finance
Anna Jefferson | 03 June, 2018, 16:28

The Virginia Senate voted Wednesday to make government health insurance available to 400,000 low-income residents, overcoming five years of GOP resistance.

Northam said Tuesday that he has listened to excuses for not expanding Medicaid for more than four years at a cost of billions of dollars in federal aid the state has refused for expanding health coverage under the federal-state program for the poor, elderly, disabled and children.

Ralph Northam said he will sign a two-year budget passed by lawmakers late Wednesday that will start a two-phase process to acquire federal funds to pay for the expansion.

ME did so previous year through a voter referendum, though that state's Republican governor has done everything he can to keep that referendum from being implemented. Legislators needed to pass a budget by July 1 to avoid a government shutdown. The benefits would include revenue from expanding Medicaid eligibility to people who now receive uncompensated care and from raising the reimbursement rate for providers.

Even though, as Governing notes, "the Trump administration made expansion more enticing for some Republicans by letting states add new eligibility rules, such as work requirements and time limits", the remaining 14 states aren't now considering any expansion of their Medicaid programs, according to KFF. They plan to hear from former U.S. Sen. The current program covers 1 million, so adding 400,000 represents a 40 percent increase - a much bigger leap for Virginia than for most states.

Northam, a Democrat, is to sign the budget into law in coming days, but his administration has already been preparing for the huge work load ahead.

"There's never a shortage of people that will not have access to healthcare", she said. "This is about getting out there and helping to bend the cost of health care for every Virginian...."

"This document, and all that it does for Virginia, speaks for itself as a conservative, responsible blueprint that replenishes our cash reserves to protect our AAA bond rating, invests in teachers, state employees, sheriff's deputies, expands healthcare access for low-income Virginians, expands on Early Childhood Education by increasing the Virginia Preschool Initiative's per pupil funding and provides financial incentives for provisionally licensed teachers to become fully licensed, and builds on the General Assembly's multi-year effort to encourage sustained economic growth", Jones wrote in a letter House members outlining the amendment package.

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But several Republican senators remained strongly opposed, saying Medicaid costs would eventually overwhelm the rest of the state's budget needs for schools and public safety.

The GOP-controlled General Assembly's support for Medicaid comes despite Trump administration rejections. In a Senate meeting room, he warned that Obamacare could be killed by Congress.

"We are picking up some momentum. 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".

Santorum's appearance was organized by Americans for Prosperity, a conservative activist group funded by the Koch brothers.

A majority of Senate Republicans are still trying to block Medicaid expansion in the budget on Wednesday.

Capitol Police stayed on hand to keep the peace, at one point separating the two factions when they got into a shouting match, a rarity in the marble corridors where a Capitol staffer regularly scolds anyone who speaks above a whisper.

The Senate Majority Leader said the deal will not discourage him from continuing to fight for a fiscally responsible budget.

In a floor speech, he also noted the tone of the debate, calling the "verbal abuse" he took from groups backing the measure. "Lying down in front of my office. with made-up tombstones, asking people to blow their horns when they go past my law office". The Senate rejected that version of the budget on a vote of 22-18, as Hanger, Wagner and Chafin joined the 19 Democrats. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Fauquier, to vote for expansion.

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