Tuesday: Howell, Plum Talk Medicaid Expansion At Reston Forum

Sen. Janet Howell and Del. Ken Plum talk to citizens at Reston Community Center Virginia General Assembly members adjourned their 2014 session last week without passing a $98 billion budget.

That also means that expanding Medicaid in Virginia — one of Gov. Terry McAullife’s top priorities — remains in limbo as well.

McAuliffe and other Democrats, including Reston legislators Sen. Janet Howell and Del. Ken Plum, want a budget that includes accepting federal Medicaid funds to expand coverage to close to 500,000 additional residents.

But Republicans control the House of Delegates, and they oppose expansion. They say the federal government can’t be trusted to keep its promise to fully fund the expansion and the bill will eventually be paid by the state.

GOP lawmakers say public opinion backs their position that the budget should be passed immediately and the Medicaid issue should be considered separately.

Howell and Plum are hosting a community conversation on Medicaid expansion at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at South Lakes High School.

The legislators will return to Richmond to resume budget talks next week.

“The refusal of the House Republicans to accept federal money to insure 400,000 working Virginians has brought everything to a halt,” Howell wrote in an email to constituents on Monday. “We are giving up $5 million  a day in funds that we Virginians have paid in fees and taxes intended to provide healthcare coverage in Virginia.

“As a member of the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission (MIRC) and as a budget conferee, I have been actively involved in trying to find a solution,” Howell wrote, adding that her work on Marketplace Virginia has the support of “most Chambers of Commerce and business groups, hospitals, religious organizations, medical groups and editorial boards, as well as McAuliffe, Senate Democrats, some Senate Republicans, and virtually all House Democrats.

“The House Republicans, standing alone, have said “No!”  They have offered no alternative. Because the funding involved is so significant and ripples through the whole budget, we cannot approve a budget until this is resolved,’ said Howell.

Meanwhile, McAuliffe has been touring the state to promote the benefits of Medicaid expansion.

Virginia ranked 48th in per capita Medicaid spending last year, according to state figures.

“This is too much money,” McAuliffe said at an appearance at a clinic in Wise, Va., last week, according to the Associated Press. He said a state budget estimate projects the Affordable Care Act with expanded Medicaid for 400,000 residents would save Virginia $1 billion by 2022.

If Virginia chooses not to expand Medicaid, thousands of Virginians will fall into a ‘no-coverage ravine’– unable to enroll in Medicaid and barred from getting tax credits to buy coverage in the new health insurance exchange, says a report from The Commonwealth Institute.

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