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XGR-Medicaid Expansion story

02 June 2018

In particular, we offer our gratitude to House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Chris Jones, Senate Finance Committee Co-Chairman Emmett Hanger, Governor Ralph Northam, Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw, Senator Frank Wagner, Senator Ben Chafin, Senator Jill Vogel, House Minority Leader David Toscano, and the dozens of other individual Senators and Delegates from both parties who supported the compromise budget.

The Senate votes culminate a five-year effort to expand health coverage to hundreds of thousands of uninsured Virginians under the Affordable Care Act.

Four Republicans joined 19 Democrats in the Virginia Senate to pass the bill. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has signaled he will sign the bill, making the state the 33rd to expand Medicaid under the ACA.

Ralph Northam, a pediatrician and Army doctor by trade, planning to sign the measure into law, Virginians and advocates for Medicaid expansion welcomed the development but emphasized the dangers of the caveat, which, as research from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has shown, "will nearly certainly cause many low-income adults to lose health coverage". "The budget the Senate passed today expands health care to Virginians, invests in core economic priorities and strengthens the cash reserves we need for a rainy day".

Del. Wendy Gooditis, D-Clarke County, who represents the 10th District, said from the House floor Wednesday that she was happily waiting to vote yes on the budget "with pleasure and pride".

The Virginia Senate finally has a budget to consider, but it doesn't include Medicaid expansion - yet.

In an odd twist, it was the Virginia Senate - traditionally the more moderate chamber and the one that had backed expansion in previous years with help from two now-retired moderate Republicans - that remained dug in.

In the final hours, 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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Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin, who opposed Medicaid expansion, called the budget "a ticking time bomb" and said lawmakers are spending money like they're "drunk in New Orleans".

The GOP-controlled General Assembly's support for Medicaid comes despite Trump administration rejections.

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 funds coming to Virginia would not add to the national debt because of the tax funding included in the Affordable Care Act to support the program.

Yet ironically, his administration's embrace of work requirements for low-income people on Medicaid prompted lawmakers in some conservative states to resurrect plans for expansion.

Last year, Virginia saw its state legislature reshaped by an anti-Trump wave as Democrats made unexpectedly large gains in the state House.

And a failure by the GOP-led Congress to repeal and replace the health law helped spur several Republican state legislators to flip positions.

Democrats campaigned heavily on expanding Medicaid last year and some House Republicans were eager to take the issue off the table before next year's election, when both House and Senate seats are up.

Correction: A prior version of this story misstated the party that controls the Virginia House of Delegates.

XGR-Medicaid Expansion story