January 11, 2013
Monique Coppola, Public News Service-VA
(01/11/13) RICHMOND, Va. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said in his State of the Commonwealth Address this week that he will not support the Medicaid expansion in Virginia, which is part of the federal health care reform law.
The governors new budget reflects this decision.
Jill Hanken, an attorney with the Virginia Poverty Law Center, says the governor has stripped $1.1 billion from the budget an amount she says is approaching what would come from the federal government to pay for Virginia's Medicaid expansion beginning January 2014.
"The federal government pays the entire cost of the expansion for the first three years, and this is bringing $2 billion a year into Virginia which would be used not just for health services for low-income people, but it would support hospitals, businesses and overall economic activity."
According to a recent study by Chmura Economics and Analytics in Richmond, the Medicaid expansion in Virginia would produce about 30,000 jobs, mostly in the medical field. After 2019, the state would be required to cover 10 percent of the costs for the expansion.
Hanken says the state's share is dwarfed by the amount of federal dollars that will be rolling into the state.
According to the Virginia Senate Finance Committee, the state spent more than $1 billion over the course of a 10-year period to subsidize indigent care at the University of Virginia and Commonwealth University Health Care Systems.
Hanken says federal funds for the expansion of Medicaid would offset these state costs.
"Also when hospitals do provide indigent care services, it affects all of us, our own health care insurance premiums go up by about a thousand dollars a year."
Hanken adds that Virginia has one of the most restrictive Medicaid programs in the entire country, but the expansion would alter this and about 400,000 Virginians could qualify for Medicaid health insurance.
The Virginia General Assembly will decide during its 2013 session whether to adopt the Medicaid expansion.