GOP Member of House of Delegates Offers Solution to Medicaid Expansion

Del. Thomas Rust, a Senior member of Virginia’s House of Delegates is working a proposal that is unique to the state and would bring the standoff over Medicaid to an end, reports The Daily Press.

 

The new plan would utilize funds from the Affordable Care Act to expand coverage for low-income Virginians. Rust’s plan will use these funds to help working Virginians who fall beneath the poverty line pay their share of employer-provided health insurance. At 70%, most of Virginia’s low wage workers are unable to pay their part of the employer-provided plans.

 

Rust plans on addressing the concerns raised by fellow Republicans over the expansion of Medicaid. The plan uses language that makes it very clear that if folks in Washington break their promise of funding expansion, the additional coverage would end.

 

Cost of expansions being shifted to the states can be attributed to Washington’s concerns over the federal debt, which is now over $17.7 trillion. The Affordable Care Act says that the federal government has the responsibility of paying the entire cost of the expansion until 2017. Then, the states will pick up the responsibility gradually and will be capped at 10 percent by 2022.

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McAuliffe Continues to Push for Medicaid

Photo courtesy of www.tricities.com

Photo courtesy of http://www.tricities.com

Gov. Terry McAuliffe, along with Attorney General Mark Herring and Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel, visited the Remote Area Medical (RAM) Clinic in Wise County Fairgrounds to volunteer as needed and talk with patients.

RAM is an annual pop-up clinic that serves around 3,000 people over the course of three days with the help of hundreds of volunteer dentists, doctors and other health-care providers. Virginians come to RAM for free health-care services that are not covered by their insurance and cannot afford on their own, according to The Washington Post.

The governor’s visit came as he is trying to determine how he can use his executive authority to expand Medicaid, since the General Assembly recently passed a state budget without any expansion. In addition to helping around the clinic, he spoke with many patients, emphasizing that he was working very hard to expand Medicaid. He also encouraged them to pressure their state delegates to support expansion, according to the Times Dispatch.

“When you talk to these folks and they’ve been here [waiting] for 30 hours to get care one day a year, that is not how you do health care in this country and it’s clearly not how we should be doing it in the commonwealth of Virginia,” said McAuliffe. “We need preventative care, and we need to get folks care before they have problems. What happens today in Virginia is that many of these folks here, their family doctor is the emergency room, and we are paying many, many times more the cost. If we would do the morally, socially, financially right thing, we would not see this RAM facility the way it is here today.”

Many of the patients at RAM would be covered under the expanded Medicaid. On the first day of the three-day clinic, the line was 1,500 people long by 4 a.m. Organizers had to start turning patients away. Hundreds of people come to the clinic to get all of their teeth pulled, since many of them have never had dental care before. While an expanded Medicaid would not fully resolve this issue since it does not cover routine dental care, it would provide emergency tooth extractions so that patients would not have to wait a year to get a tooth pulled.

Battle Over Medicaid Expansion Delayed Until September

With hundreds of thousands of Virginians still uninsured, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) is waiting for the Republicans to create a plan to remedy the health coverage gap, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

With Democratic leadership pushing for a solution, Republicans want the General Assembly to wait until late September before they begin to debate the issue of Medicaid expansion.

Speaker of the House William J. Howell (R-Stafford) stated that he would call the House into session on September 22nd to discuss the looming issue. Howell, one of the leaders opposing the use of federal funding to expand Medicaid, has been in a tug-of-war with McAuliffe and the Democrats over the issue for months.

In a joint statement with Howell, Senate Majority Leader Thomas W. Norment Jr. (R-Stafford) said, “Although I remain to be persuaded that Medicaid expansion would be the right financial decision for Virginia, any decision to enact a change this major would require the General Assembly’s approval.”

Republicans remain staunch on their position to block the governor from expanding Medicaid without the General Assembly’s legislative approval. However, McAuliffe is adamant in his plans to expand Medicaid and health care coverage through the federal funds provided by the Affordable Care Act.

Spokesman for Gov. McAuliffe said in a statement Wednesday, “The governor hopes that Republicans in the General Assembly will finally put what’s best for Virginia families ahead of petty ideological politics and offer a serious proposal to close the coverage gap.”

 

McAuliffe to Sign Budget

In a press conference this morning, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that he will sign the budget proposed by state legislators on Thursday. He will sign the budget but veto the Medicaid amendment, reports The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

This announcement marks the end of the on-going struggle between Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly. The standstill hinged on McAuliffe’s agenda to expand Medicaid and other healthcare programs and the opposition it faced from Republicans.

The Medicaid amendment would have prohibited McAuliffe from expanding Medicaid or a private option without the approval of both houses of the legislature.

In the press conference, McAuliffe expressed his disdain for the amendment saying “Republicans in the General Assembly had refused to compromise, turned their backs on Virginians who need health care and forfeited millions of dollars.”

Virginia Is One Step Closer To Finalizing a State Budget

A Republican-controlled Virginia General Assembly passed a state budget late Thursday night – one that doesn’t include Medicaid, one of Governor Terry McAuliffe’s top priorities.

Medicaid has been a hot topic during the state budget discussions. McAuliffe has sworn previously that he would not sign a budget that didn’t provide health care for 400,000 uninsured Virginians. Other Democrats agree that expanding Medicaid is the right thing to do.

All but three Republicans, on the other hand, are doubtful that the federal government would be able to provide its promised $2 billion every year for the heath care program. That would be a huge cost to absorb, especially since Virginia is expected to have a $1.5 billion shortfall over the two-year budget period “due to a miscalculation of capital gains tax revenue,” according to the Washington Post.

The budget that was passed through the General Assembly will maintain current spending levels to accommodate the shortfall, which means that Medicaid was slashed from the plan.

Sen. Richard H. Black (R-Loudoun) was particularly hell-bent on making sure that Medicaid could not be expanded for the next two years. He was concerned about vague language in the budget proposal that may have provided a loophole for the expansion, but he ultimately eliminated it from the final budget plan. Democrats and Republicans alike are convinced that Medicaid expansion would not be possible for the next two years under this state budget, according to the Washington Post.

McAuliffe now has seven days to make changes and send it back to the legislature, so it remains to be seen whether or not he will accept the lack of Medicaid expansion. However, the July 1 deadline adds pressure and urgency to the decision.

“When this budget reaches my desk I will evaluate it carefully and take the actions that I deem necessary, but this fight is far from over,” said McAuliffe immediately after the vote according to the Washington Post. “This is the right thing to do for Virginia, and I will not rest until we get it done.”

New Poll Reveals Gov. McAuliffe’s Lukewarm Approval Ratings

A poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University shows that voters are optimistic about Gov. McAuliffe’s term by 57 to 32 percent. This information comes only two months after he won office with just under 50% of the vote, reports The Washington Post.

“Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s initial report card from Virginia voters is good, but not great,” says Peter Brown, the assistant director of Quinnipiac University’s Poll.

McAuliffe’s overall approval rating remains lukewarm with 44% of people approving of the job he is doing, 29% disapproving and 27% undecided.

The poll reports that 53% of Virginians feel that he has strong leadership qualities, 44% believe he is honest and trustworthy and 46% feel that McAuliffe cares about their needs and problems.

Quinnipiac administered this poll as McAuliffe engaged in a dispute with House Republicans in regards to expanding Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act. The battle has stalled budget negotiations, and with time running out the argument threatens a state government shutdown if not resolved before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1st.

The survey shows that this is not Virginians’ biggest concern. Only 4% of those polled feel that Medicaid should be the government’s top priority, while 19% feel that the focus should be on jobs and unemployment.

Virginia Governor Attempts to Expand Medicaid Under Affordable Care Act

Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe proposed a Medicaid expansion on Tuesday. He predicts that the expansion would bring health care to 400,000 low income Virginians, provide 3.9 billion to the state’s economy and add 30,000 new jobs. Using 2 billion a year in federal funds, the Senate would help Virginians buy private insurance. Before his election, McAuliffe vowed to reject a budget plan without a Medicaid expansion. He needs allies in the Republican House for the expansion to pass.

McAuliffe Mulls McDonnell Budget

Terry McAuliffe

Terry McAuliffe

Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe (D) released the following statement on current Gov. Bob McDonnell’s 2014-2016 budget proposal made on December 16:

“I congratulate Gov. McDonnell for continuing his record of sound financial leadership with this biennial budget. I would also like to thank the governor for the unprecedented information and cooperation he and his team have offered me with respect to this budget and the entire transition process.

“There are many items in this proposed budget that will make Virginia a better place to work, live and do business. Reforming Virginia’s mental health system must be a critical priority of this budget, as well as strengthening the Virginia Retirement System and continuing to invest in higher education.

“My policy team and I are already closely examining this budget and looking forward to finding common ground with leaders from both parties to pass a final product that grows our economy and uses every taxpayer dollar to make Virginians’ lives better.”

Medicaid Expansion Committee Met in Richmond

The panel considering Medicaid expansion in Virginia had its final meeting of 2013 last Tuesday, according to NBC 29 in Charlottesville.

The Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission met at the General Assembly Building in Richmond to discuss potentially expanding Medicaid to 400,000 low-income Virginians under the Affordable Care Act. The commission was established in 2012 as a compromise between Democrats and Republicans. The panel is tasked with ensuring that cost-saving reforms are achieved before Virginia considers an expansion.

Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe (D) supports expanding the entitlement program, which has grown to account for 20 percent of the state’s budget in recent years.

Governor McDonnell Unveils 2014-2016 Budget

bobmcdonnell1Today, outgoing Governor Bob McDonnell (R) unveiled his two-year, $95.9 billion budget proposal to the Joint Money Committees of the General Assembly  in Richmond, Va.

The proposal included increases in mental health and education spending, among other priorities.

Both NBC4 Washington and the Washington Post note that this budget is $10 million larger than the current biennial budget, with the majority of the increased spending directed toward Medicaid, K-12 education and state retirement and health care plans.

The budget, which is McDonnell’s final hurrah before leaving office in January, includes no new taxes or fee increases. To see the full text of the proposed budget, click here.