Virginia's General Assembly passes Medicaid expansion

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on March 21 in Richmond with Aubrey Lane the state’s secretary of finance

The majority-GOP Senate passed the measure with the votes of all 19 Democrats along with a handful of Republican senators, bringing a six-year debate over whether Virginia should accept funding from the Affordable Care Act to expand Medicaid almost to a close. Several state Republicans, including Augusta County's Emmett Hanger, dropped their opposition this year, saying the state would be better off with increased federal funding for the program.

The Republican-controlled House supported expansion throughout the General Assembly session.

The state budget then headed to the House of Delegates, which approved the measure 67-31 Wednesday night. "Health insurance coverage for autism spectrum disorder that I have fought for year after year and have been crushed when it failed, is in this budget".

In Virginia, which has some of the strictest eligibility requirements in the country, a family of three that makes more than $6,900 a year is no longer eligible for Medicaid coverage under current law.

"There's always talk of repealing Obamacare; that did not happen", Cox said.

The House of Delegates had already passed a budget package that included a plan to expand Virginia's Medicaid program to low-income Virginians who make up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

President Donald Trump has vigorously sought to negate his predecessor's health law.

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Correction: A prior version of this story misstated the party that controls the Virginia House of Delegates.

Former Virginia governor, now U.S. Sen.

Nineteen of the 51 Republicans in the House joined Democrats in February to pass a budget bill that expanded Medicaid, apparently concluding that they have more to fear from energized Democrats and independents than from potential primary challengers on the right. Rick Santorum, the Republican from Pennsylvania, who left office in 2007 and has been out of politics since his unsuccesful run for the presidency in 2012. A majority of senators support it and should be allowed to vote. "Passing this budget today was the fiscally and morally responsible thing to do, and I proudly voted in favor of it".

Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin, who opposed Medicaid expansion, called the budget "a ticking time bomb" and said lawmakers are spending money like they're "drunk in New Orleans". "The verbal abuse I took yesterday, just walking from the Pocahantas Building was unbelievable".

When Republicans in Congress tried and failed to repeal the health care law previous year, Hanger said they had proposed a block-grant approach that would have hurt Virginia and other states that had refused to expand their Medicaid programs.

"This is not just about helping this group of people", Wagner said. "As a doctor, I'm so proud of the significant step we've taken together to help Virginians get quality, affordable care", Governor Northam said in a statement after the vote. It is the number one issue on our voters' minds.

Ironically, Republican lawmakers said it was the Trump administration's embrace of work requirements for low-income people on Medicaid that help get the measure passed after years of partisan battles.

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