We returned to the General Assembly on Tuesday, April 8, 2014, to continue our debate over the budget. It was a very short session because House Republicans refused to consider a budget passed by the Senate which included provisions for closing the coverage gap for up to 400,000 Virginians. In early March, Governor McAuliffe proposed a new budget that added $225 million for education and public safety because of the expansion of Medicaid. These savings were generated by taking monies that our taxpayers have sent to Washington and bringing them back to Virginia, where they can work for us. With Medicaid expansion, the Commonwealth would receive federal monies to provide 100 percent of the reimbursement of costs of new enrollees. The expansion would create 30,000 new jobs while bolstering our hospitals which are facing large financial losses. We have lost almost $500 million since January 1 by refusing Medicaid expansion.
The McAuliffe budget proposed additional spending in critical areas such as jobs and economic development, public safety, and public education. Charlottesville and Albemarle school divisions would likely receive additional monies if the McAuliffe budget was passed.
There is substantial support from around the Commonwealth to close the coverage gap, not only because it helps real people address their insurance needs, but it makes business sense. Here is just a partial list of the editorials from newspapers across the Commonwealth on this issue:
- Danville Register and Bee: Patient care, not politics, for Virginia
- Richmond Times Dispatch: “Marketplace Virginia is the way to go. It is the type of alternative conservatives interested in governing and in serving the entire citizenry should embrace.”
- The Roanoke Times: “In January, Speaker Bill Howell penned a commentary calling for an “alternative approach” to expanding Medicaid. Nearly three months later, he has yet to offer any alternative of his own. Meanwhile, the Marketplace Virginia plan sits untouched, waiting for someone to show up at the negotiating table. Like a misplaced pair of glasses, it’s in plain sight.”
- Loudoun Times-Mirror: Virginia should support Medicaid expansion
- The Washington Post: “Using allocated federal money to expand the availability of health-care coverage for some of the most vulnerable is a cause worth fighting for — in Virginia and every other holdout state.”
- The Virginian-Pilot: Good Sense and Medicaid
- Fredericksburg Free Lance Star: Expand Medicaid
- The Daily Press: “The best way forward is by using federal money to purchase coverage for the uninsured through a market-based private opinion. It is a plan similar to one in Arkansas, and which already passed the Senate. It is supported by the state Chamber of Commerce and many medical groups as a practical way to break the impasse in Richmond.”
- Staunton News Leader: “Rather than accept a Republican-written compromise — one of our best of that rare breed, crafted in part by Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon — to accept federal money without expanding Medicaid, the House said no. This means Virginia continues to lose $5 million in federal dollars everyday, money that is supposed to go toward helping our poor get access to health insurance, money that Virginians are already sending to Washington in federal taxes, money that can keep our hospitals fully staffed.”
- Culpeper Star Exponent: “Virginia should expand Medicaid, even if legislators don’t agree with the ACA.”
The Town Hall meeting held March 19, which Senator Deeds and I organized, was extremely successful. Many people came to support Medicaid expansion and even “Tea Party” opponents who were there raised good questions and debated the issue in a civil and respectful manner. I greatly enjoy having both the proponents and opponents of policy ideas in the same room at the same time because it gives both sides the option to hear the arguments of the other.
Right now, the House Republicans’ refusal to act has put us at a standstill. The Governor’s budget has made it plain; the Commonwealth will gain financially from Medicaid expansion and our localities, educators, and law enforcement personnel would benefit by the passage of a budget that includes it. With the exception of the “veto” session scheduled for April 23, no other meetings have been scheduled – which means another day leaving Virginia taxpayer dollars in Washington and another day without a budget for the Commonwealth.
As always, it is a pleasure representing you in the General Assembly and I hope that you will contact me with your views and comments issues before the Commonwealth.