All year long we have seen poll after poll saying the Virginia people want Medicaid expansion. And more importantly, many of them need the Medicaid expansion offered by the ACA. But where are we now?
Governor McAuliffe has done all he could with a recalcitrant legislature. This past month, he outlined measures to improve access to health care for 200,000 Virginians, including covering 20,000 people with severe mental illness and boosting outreach efforts to those who qualify for Medicaid but are not enrolled. Ultimately these measures will provide health insurance to as many as 25,000 Virginians, but that represents just a small slice of the 400,000 uninsured Virginians the General Assembly refuses to acknowledge.
The Republicans in charge of the Virginia General Assembly convened a special session two weeks ago to resolve the budget and finalize consideration of Medicaid expansion. While bipartisan discussions on the budget were promising, they were nothing more than a legislative ploy as House Republicans blocked Medicaid expansion with a procedural measure that killed the chances for healthcare for 400,000 of their constituents.
The irony here is that the very same communities that need Medicaid expansion the most, those that rely deeply on charity for their basic health care needs, are being sold a bill of goods by their elected officials who refuse to expand Medicaid. This should not be ignored.
These politicians claim to distrust that the federal government will honor its commitment to Medicaid. Already Virginia is losing money as the full federal funding of Medicaid expansion comes to an end and the federal dollars are scaled back to the ACA mandated 90 percent. And where states have expressed frustration with this plan, the administration has worked to create expansion alternatives that address these concerns. Simply put, Virginia tax dollars are going to other states thanks to Richmond Republicans who care more about the next election than keeping their constituents healthy.
Sadly this debate is ruled by ideology and partisanship over good policy. Virginia has long been a leader among states and, unfortunately, in line with this trend Richmond is now a reflection of Washington, where House Republicans shut down the government for two weeks last year over ACA implementation.
Already, national Republicans have tried denying the poorest citizens the most basic forms of health care. They were as wrong then as the GOP leaders in Richmond are now. It is immoral and inhumane to refuse your poorest constituents that which they need most. They need to give up their partisan, ideologically driven agenda and do what’s best for Virginia.