Virginia set to expand Medicaid, as Senate OKs proposal

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on March 21 in Richmond with Aubrey Lane the state’s secretary of finance

It is Kirk, not Kick.

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

Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Upperville, who represents the 27th District, which includes the Winchester area, has been a longtime opponent of Medicaid expansion and voted for a budget that did not include it Tuesday. The House, which had had previously endorsed expansion, gave its final approval shortly afterward.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, a pediatrician who made Medicaid expansion a centerpiece of his campaign in 2017, is expected to sign the legislation soon.

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Expanding Medicaid was a key provision of then-President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, and a tally from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows Virginia will become the 33rd state to approve Medicaid expansion. The Senate is expected to also pass its $115 billion two-year budget on Wednesday and both are expected to pass the House. The House voted 68-30 to back the budget for fiscal year ending June 30 and 67-31 for the new two-year budget.

McPike noted that the budget bill, with its infusion of federal Medicaid dollars, will allow the state to use money it had been spending on indigent care toward priorities such as education, mental health care and Medicaid "waivers" for those who are developmentally disabled.

Virginia lawmakers are set to end a budget stalemate and pass Medicaid expansion. Several state Republicans, including Augusta County's Emmett Hanger, dropped their opposition this year, saying the state would be better off with increased federal funding for the program. They plan to hear from former U.S. Sen.

"I came to the conclusion that "no" just wasn't the answer anymore, that doing nothing about the medical conditions, the state of health care in my district, just wasn't the answer any longer", he said.

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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.

Later, he said the Senate rules forbid a legislative proposal to be raised a third time after being defeated twice on the floor, unless the entire body agrees. Supreme Court, the state of Virginia is ready to begin a process to expand its Medicaid program to cover an additional 400,000 people.

But opposition in the House crumbled after Democrats almost won control of the chamber in November, amid a blue wave widely viewed as a rebuke to President Donald Trump. The bill also institutes a work requirement for the Medicaid program, which compels recipients to work or volunteer for at least 20 hours a month to get benefits.

It was made clear Wednesday that Virginia will expand Medicaid after more than four years of fighting about it. "Just as the hospital community has been a consistent partner with the state to achieve a compromise coverage plan, our members pledge continued support to the Commonwealth as we work together to implement coverage expansion here as part of the ongoing work to make Virginia the healthiest state in the nation".

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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. A chastened House Speaker Kirkland Cox, R-Colonial Heights, seeking to rebrand Republicans as results-oriented pragmatists, came out in favor of expansion if work requirements, co-pays and other conservative strings were attached.

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