Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Virginia Republicans appear to have successfully blocked Medicaid expansion

Drew Angerer / Getty News Images

The odds of  Virginia expanding Medicaid in 2014 appear to be dwindling.

Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has been an aggressive proponent of the Medicaid expansion since he took office in January. But despite his months long campaign to move forward, the Republican-controlled Virginia House has refused to put the Medicaid expansion in a budget.

McAuliffe had suggested he might shut down the Virginia government if the legislature didn't pass a budget that funded Medicaid expansion. But on Friday, he backed down: McAuliffe will indeed sign a budget that doesn't fund Medicaid expansion.

He will also direct his the Health and Human Resources department to look at what other back-up options Virginia has to help provide coverage to low-income Virginians, as the odds of an Obamacare Medicaid expansion look slim to non-existent.

To be clear: McAuliffe is not suggesting he can pursue the Medicaid expansion in the face of Republican opposition. He is commissioning a report about what else Virginia can do to serve low-income residents who would have qualified for Medicaid, but aren't going to get it.

While signing off on the overall budget, McAuliffe also line-item vetoed two provisions that relate to the Medicaid program. One was a veto of the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission, a government body meant to review "reform proposals."

McAuliffe described the proposal in a statement as "a sham to pretend that the legislature is serious about Medicaid reform and expansion." The governor also vetoed language that restricts Virginia spending on a Medicaid expansion, which he described as "unnecessary given its intent to restrict an appropriation that does not exist anywhere in the budget."

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