Virginia is one step closer to expanding Medicaid Friday, after a couple key Republican Senators broke rank and announced support for the health insurance program.
Republican Frank Wagner of Virginia Beach released an op-ed to the press Friday, writing quote “we must do more to help working families find affordable health insurance.”
Medicaid expansion would provide coverage to about 400,000 poor Virginians who currently don’t qualify. The program would be paid for almost entirely by the federal government.
Shortly after Republican Senator Emmett Hanger also announced support. In an oped published by the Augusta Free Press Hanger writes that he has "no intentions of voting for a final budget that does not include a plan to access the additional dollars that are available to us currently under Medicaid."
The Governor supports the move. And, for the first time years, a majority in Virginia’s House of Delegates also support expansion. But Republicans in the state Senate have stood firmly in opposition. It would take two Senators to flip their votes to give Medicaid a chance of passing.
Senate Republicans released a statement Friday in response, saying "The position of the Senate Republican Caucus is unchanged. We believe that the best route... to reaching a budget agreement... is to pass a 'clean' budget without Obamacare's Medicaid expansion."
Wagner’s support comes with strings attached. He writes:
“The expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act would cover everyone with incomes below 138% of the poverty level...but what about those who earn income above (that level)...Do we do nothing for these hard working Virginians? They struggle everyday to cover health insurance, deductibles and co-pays, while trying to meet the rest of their living expenses.”
Wagner would like to provide a tax credit of $250 a year to families that make between $30,000 and $50,000 dollars a year.
In a budget plan passed by the House of Delegates, hospitals are taxed to help pay the state’s share of the cost of Medicaid expansion. Wagner suggests using part of that revenue source to pay for his tax credits.
In a statement, The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association says Wagner's focus on rising healthcare costs is well placed.
"Virginia's hospital community is willing to consider an assessment in an effort to support a compromise on coverage expansion," reads the statement. "It is imperative, however, that statutory protections be in place to ensure that money raised from such an assessment is used solely for Medicaid reimbursement and rate improvement."
Lawmakers will be able to dig into that proposal next week, when they come to Richmond to finalize the state budget and discuss Medicaid expansion.