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Governor Again Pushes for Medicaid Expansion

Virginia is one of 20 states that have opted to not expand Medicaid using money the federal government is providing through the Affordable Care Act. It’s been the source of deep discord between Virginia’s Democratic Governor and its Republican legislature, for a couple of years.

But as part of a big budget proposal, Governor McAuliffe threw his hat into the ring for one more Medicaid fight.

In front of a select group of finance leaders from Virginia’s House and Senate, Governor McAuliffe addressed the one big question mark in this year’s budget proposal -- whether he’d push for medicaid expansion once more.

“Now as you all know I have come at this issue from every angle,” joked McAuliffe during his speech.

But now he’ll be coming at it from one more angle, one he says will cost the state nothing.

“This opportunity is in our reach thanks to the hospitals,” McAuliffe said. "They have put a new plan on the table, one in which they will provide the matching contributions needed to draw down the federal funds.”

Bill Hazel, state secretary of health, explained.

“For every dollar we put up, we get a dollar of federal funding. So the dollars have to come from some place,” he said.

According to McAuliffe’s latest proposal that place would be a tax, on 3-percent of revenue from hospitals.

“The hospitals have basically said it is to our advantage now, this coverage, we’re willing to put the money up,” Hazel said. “Take our money to draw down the match so that we can cover these people, so they won’t be uninsured when they come to us and we can provide the care that we have to provide anyway.”

In a statement, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association said they would be open to participating, under the condition that their contributions go only towards drawing down medicaid funds -- and that any cost savings be set aside to help struggling rural hospitals.

At the end of his speech, McAuliffe urged legislators to seriously the consider proposal.

“But I do ask, please, do not make a snap decision against expansion,” he said. "All I’m saying to everybody here today, it is time to talk.”

Republican Delegate Chris Jones, chairman of the house appropriations committee, was quick to respond to reporters’ questions of whether he’d be giving medicaid a fresh look with a firm no.

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