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As End of Session Nears, Senate GOP Holds Out Against Medicaid Expansion



With just a few days left before the end of the legislative session, it’s still unclear if Medicaid expansion will pass. For the first time in years, Republicans in the House of Delegates are supporting the measure. But Senate Republicans are still opposed.


A key Senate committee reinforced that opposition Thursday when they votedagainst work requirements for the health insurance program.

During the Senate Health and Finance Committee Republican Senator John Cosgrove called the work requirement proposal a “work suggestion.” With the bill’s sponsor, Republican Delegate Jason Miyares, standing before him Cosgrove criticized the measure as lacking “teeth.”

“It’s a shadow of its original intent,” Cosgrove said. “But ultimately, with all due respect to Jason, the bill really is a camouflage to basically hide the real goal, which is to help pass Medicaid expansion in Virginia.”

Work requirements have been a bargaining chip this session. House Republicans are now on board with full Medicaid expansion. But Republicans in the Senate committee made clear Thursday they are still opposed.

Just a couple hours later, hundreds gathered outside in the rainy weather to hear Democratic Governor Ralph Northam speak in favor of expansion.

Donna Cywinski’s adult son has a heart defect. He works, but until recently wasn’t able to afford afford health insurance on his own. She spoke not just to support him, but the 400,000 people in Virginia who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to qualify for federal subsidies on the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

“The Senate Republicans are condemning these 400,000 people to lives of sickness and in some cases death,” said Cywinski.

Medicaid expansion is written into the House’s proposed budget, but not the Senate’s. A select group of lawmakers are currently debating the budgets. If expansion makes it into the final bill, the last hurdle will be a full vote on the Senate floor.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

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