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Medicaid expansion debates holds up state budget approval

4/8/2014, 11:27 a.m.

By Sylvina Poole

The Medicaid expansion debates have stifled the passing of the state’s budget. Virginia lawmakers are still meeting to hash out and reach a compromise on the issue of expanding Medicaid coverage to no avail, resulting in an entrenched battle halting the approval of the new Virginia budget.

Democratic leaders say they will not approve a budget that would not include Medicaid expansion that brings coverage to 400,000 uninsured Virginians. Additionally, Gov. Terry McAuliffe has stated that the expansion would help hospitals in rural and urban areas as well as bring jobs and return even more dollars to the state by 2022.

Del. Jennifer L. McClellan makes some valid points on the issue.

“I am hopeful that during this special session we can find a way to bring closure to $2 billion per year in federal taxes that Virginian will pay back to close the health care coverage gap to cover hundreds of thousands of Virginians. Those taxes will be paid whether Virginia expands Medicaid or not. Shouldn't that money be used to address the needs of uninsured Virginians, not expanding Medicaid in other states?” she said.

Sen. A. Donald McEechin, D-Henrico also weighed in on the matter.

“Families, businesses, and hospitals are counting on us to close the coverage gap, but House Republicans have said 'no' to every proposal. They've refused to negotiate, and they've refused to offer any plan of their own. We need to pass a budget, and we need to seize this opportunity to help uninsured Virginians gain coverage. House Republicans are the only thing that's stopping us - and until they come to the table, we won't be able to meet either of these responsibilities,” said McEachin.

On the other hand, some Republicans are steadfast in holding on to their position that Medicaid expansion would jeopardize 104 budget amendments and create a shroud of doubt on the federal government’s promise to make good on their intention to fund expansion.

Polls have shown that individual Virginians support efforts to close the gap, as well; a February CNU poll put support at 56-38.