No Medicaid Expansion Yet, McDonnell Tells Feds
Virginia Beach, VA (Law Firm Newswire) May 10, 2013 – Virginia has not agreed to expand Medicaid, the governor told the Obama administration.
In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Governor Bob McDonnell clarified language contained in the state's recently-passed budget. The provisions outline “a series of reforms that must be completed to the satisfaction of a new legislative commission prior to consideration of Medicaid expansion,” the letter said. The governor wrote that some in the media and the state capitol had interpreted this as an approval of Medicaid expansion, a characterization McDonnell called “absolutely incorrect.”
“Medicaid access is a vital health resource to many low-income, disabled, and senior Virginians,” said elder law attorney Andrew Hook. “Our state legislators and governor need to decide this issue based on what's best for Virginians and not for political reasons.”
McDonnell signed a written pledge in February, 2013, outlining an agreement to expand Medicaid under certain conditions. Some Democrats in the State Assembly had threatened to delay a vote on transportation funding – an issue important to McDonnell – until the groundwork for expansion had been laid. The agreement garnered criticism for the outgoing governor among conservatives, who accused him of ceding the Medicaid debate for the sake of the transportation bill and its impact on his legacy.
The budget agreement does not directly expand Medicaid. Instead, it authorizes a commission to expand it if federal officials allow Virginia to implement certain reforms. The language was a compromise between a House bill that would have required a full vote of the General Assembly to expand the program and a Senate version that would have authorized state health officials to do so.
Some Republicans claimed victory in the compromise, which does not authorize expansion based on a simple majority vote of the panel comprised of five Senators and five House members. Instead, at least three members from each chamber must agree that reform conditions have been met. The panel members from the House of Delegates are more strongly opposed to Medicaid expansion than their Senate counterparts and may prove difficult to convince.
The political wrangling may, in the end, prove moot. The expansion language contained in the budget expires July 1, 2014, when the next budget will take effect. Many lawmakers agree that a decision on Medicaid expansion will fall to the next governor. Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe supports expansion, while Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli opposes it.
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