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Home / US / Virginia legislators expand Medicaid to 400,000, after years of GOP resistance

Virginia legislators expand Medicaid to 400,000, after years of GOP resistance

The Virginia legislature decided on Wednesday to provide 400,000 low-income citizens with state health insurance that will overcome five years of resistance from the GOP. The decision marks a left shift in the legislature and a tremendous boost to Governor Ralph Northam (D), the pediatrician who has expanded access to healthcare.

Virginia will join 32 other states and the district in expanding Medicaid coverage. The measure should be effective Jan. 1.

"It's not just about helping this group of people," said Senator Frank Wagner (Virginia Beach), one of four Senate Republicans who separated from their party to join the Democrats and the Measure with one vote from 23 to 1

7. "It's about improving health care for every Virginian … It's the number one issue in the minds of our constituents, for God's sake, it should be number one in the General Assembly.

Another Republican who broke his ranks, Sen. Ben Chafin (Russell), is a lawyer and rancher from a rural health care district

"I came to the conclusion that & # 39; no & # 39; no longer the answer was that nothing more had to do with the medical conditions and health condition in my district, just was not the answer anymore. "He said.

Following the Senate vote, the House of Delegates approved the measure with a 67 to 31 rand and jubilation in the Chamber.

"This budget is the culmination of five years of efforts to bring our taxpayers home from Washington and expand Medicaid," said Northam, who is expected to sign the bill. "As a doctor, I am so proud of the significant step we have taken to help provide virginians with quality and affordable care."

Terry White of Chesapeake greeted the message with "Thank you, Jesus!" White, 50, lost private insurance when severe arthritis forced him to give up work in the Newport News shipyards in 2008. He uses a Walker, has heart failure and has been treated for prostate cancer, but he is not eligible for Medicaid under the current system. He made enormous medical bills and had to move in with a nurse. This will be a blessing that will help many people. "

The growing political power of the wealthy suburbs of the state, which helped the Democrats since 2009 to gain any statewide office, nudged the Legislature on expansion, said Stephen Farnsworth, a political scientist at the University of Mary Washington

"The fate of the Republican party in Richmond was not good when the party was mainly for divisive issues such as no Medicaid expansion, no abortion and no arms restrictions stood, "he said. "That's a loss Trifecta in a suburb of Virginia, and that's where the votes are."

Despite Republican efforts to tear it down, the Affordable Care Act is "more popular than ever and the ability to balance the state budget with an influx of federal funds has become an increasingly popular choice," he said.

Under the law, Washington allows states to open their Medicaid roles for people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, which is $ 16,643 for a Individual. The federal government pledged to pay at least 90 percent of the costs that would amount to about $ 2 billion annually in Virginia.

The Republican-controlled legislature rejected this for years. GOP leaders said they feared that the federal government would not meet its funding promise and put Virginia at unbearable pressure.

"If I spent money like the federal government, I would sleep in my car and someone would try to repossess the car," said Senator Richard Black (R-Loudoun).

But the opposition in the house collapsed after the Democrats almost conquered control of the chamber in November. A proclaimed parliamentary speaker, M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights), who wanted to rephrase the Republican as a result-oriented pragmatist, advocated enlargement when work demands, co-pays, and other conservative strings were added.

In February 19, the 51 Republicans in the House of Representatives joined the Democrats to pass a budget bill that expanded Medicaid, apparently concluding that they feared more from captivating Democrats and independents than potential main challengers on the right to have. [Republican Medicaid expanders in Va. say backlash is milder than expected] [Republican Medicaid expanders in Va. say backlash is milder than expected] ]

Relaxation of their development was Northam's acquisition of the governor in January. The former state senator and vice-governor, a gentle pediatrician and former army doctor who was once courted by Republicans, has close friends on both sides of the aisle. His predecessor, Terry McAuliffe (D), attempted to expand Medicaid for four years, but did not enjoy the same respect and confidence of the Republicans in Richmond.

In a strange turn it was the Virginia Senate – traditionally the more moderate chamber and one who had supported the expansion in earlier years with the help of two now-retired moderate Republicans – who dug in remained.

This split between the House and the Senate forced the legislature to postpone its regular session on March 10 without a budget. Legislators must pass a spending plan by July 1 to avoid a government deadlock.

Virginia's existing Medicaid program is one of the least generous in the nation. To qualify, a disabled person can not earn more than $ 9,700 a year. The cutoff for a family of three is $ 6,900. Perfect, childless adults are not eligible, no matter how poor.

Under the Affordable Care Act, Virginia may increase these income limits to $ 16,750 a year for disabled or unrestrained adults and $ 28,700 for a family

The thinness – some say stinginess – of the current Medicaid program partially explains Virginia's reluctance to expand. The current program includes 1 million, so the addition of 400,000 represents a 40 percent increase – a much larger jump for Virginia than for most states.

Republican hold outs in the Senate saw the carnage last year when Democrats overturned 15 home seats, but they were isolated because they were not on the ballot. And some doubted that the embrace of "Obamacare" would help their party, which has not won a nationwide election since 2009. While voters ranked health care as a priority in polls, some Republicans in November blamed GOP losses on an anti-Trump wave.

They fought until the moment of the vote on Wednesday, with 10 hours of procedural moves, passionate floor speeches and an appearance by former US Senator Rick Santorum, the Republican from Pennsylvania, who resigned. He warned senators that Obamacare was killed by Congress

"We take some drive, I feel very, very good" that the legislation that repeals the ACA will progress in Congress said Santorum, who now lives in Virginia. "That means that everything that happens here will be in vain, in fact you will create something that you have to get rid of in two years."

Santorum's performance was funded by the Americans for Prosperity, the conservative activist group funded by the Brothers Koch. People wearing green Americans for prosperity shirts and holding signs demanding "no Medicaid expansion in Virginia" drew the conference room. Expansion trailers waited outside in the hallway; their signs reminded individual senators of the percentage of voters in their districts who advocated expansion.

The Capitol Police had to separate the two factions when they invaded a shouting cry, a rarity in the marble corridors where one employee regularly scolds everyone

Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment jr. popped the vote, saying that it gives up "Virginia's long-standing reputation for fiscal responsibility."

In a speech in the hall, he also deplored the tone of the debate.

"In the years I was in the Senate, I was never treated more disrespectfully by some of these stakeholders," he said. "I lie down in front of my office … with invented gravestones and ask people to blow their horns when they come by my office … The verbal abuse I made yesterday while walking from the Pocahantas building, were incredible. " 19659034] In the end, Wagner, Chafin joined two other Republicans, Emmett W. Hanger Jr. (Augusta), and Senator Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Fauquier) to vote for the extension.

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