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McAuliffe to bring Medicaid expansion debate here
Governor will visit area Tuesday

Sunday, March 16, 2014

By SAM JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer

Gov. Terry McAuliffe is bringing his campaign to drum up public support for a state Medicaid expansion to Martinsville on Tuesday, where he plans to discuss the state of local health care with patients and medical workers at two sites, according to an aide.

Rachel Thomas, McAuliffe’s deputy press secretary, confirmed Friday that McAuliffe planned to visit the PATHS Community Medical Center at 9 a.m. Tuesday, followed by a trip to Memorial Hospital at 10. The specific times of the stops were still tentative Friday, Thomas said.

McAuliffe plans to discuss the state of health coverage with people in the field during his stops.

“He is going to talk to hospitals, clinics (and) health care providers,” Thomas said. “It’s more of a listening session, where he hears how important closing the coverage gap is.”

McAuliffe also may tour the facilities if time permits, Thomas added. The governor had stops in Danville and South Boston scheduled after Martinsville, she added.

The governor has been touring the state since the General Assembly adjourned March 9, attempting to build support for an expansion of Medicaid, which he touted during his gubernatorial campaign against then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. In the past week, McAuliffe has visited Tazewell and Prince William counties, Christiansburg, Blacksburg and Colonial Heights, according to the administration.

The General Assembly ended its session without passing a state budget or resolving the Medicaid issue, and it will re-convene March 24 to renew discussions. The Medicaid expansion has created an impasse between Senate Democrats and the administration against the Republican-controlled House of Delegates, which opposed expanding Medicaid.

Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, said Medicaid should be a separate issue from the state budget, but “the governor and the Senate Democrats have said they will not pass a budget unless it has Medicaid expansion in it.

“What (House Republicans) are asking is they pass a clean budget (without Medicaid), then call us in for a special session about Medicaid,” he said.

Marshall cited last year’s transportation bill signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell, which came several months after the 2013-14 budget was approved.

“If this (Medicaid expansion) is a good idea, then is should stand on its own,” he said. “The transportation bill stood on its own.”

State Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Glade Hill, said McAuliffe is “continuing the campaign without doing the heavy lifting that’s required” in government with his publicity tour. Instead of trying to push Medicaid expansion through the General Assembly, he said, McAuliffe should be working to find alternatives, such as the state-run “Marketplace Virginia” proposed by the Senate Finance Committee that was included in the Senate budget plan.

“Marketplace Virginia” was proposed as an alternative to Medicaid expansion which would use the federal funds (about $2 billion annually over three years) for new Medicaid coverage to subsidize premiums in a state-run insurance marketplace similar to those operated by the exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act.

Such a plan would hinge upon the federal government allowing the state to use those federal funds to set up its own marketplace, however, and Stanley said Senate Democrats — and some Republicans — have balked, insisting specifically on Medicaid expansion.

Marshall and Stanley both said Medicaid should be removed from the state budget in any form, since it is funded by the federal government, not the state. However, they said, Democrats refuse to approve a budget before Medicaid is expanded.

“Both sides have kind of dug into their positions and are unwilling to change or find compromise,” Stanley said. So the General Assembly must continue discussions “between now and June 30 to see if common ground can be found.”

The House, however, passed its version of the budget with no allowance made for either Medicaid or a state insurance marketplace. That puts the idea of a budget agreement in jeopardy to avoid a total shutdown of state government when fiscal 2014-15 begins July 1, he said.

“There is such an impasse between the two schools of thought,” Stanley added, “it’s not likely to be resolved in the short time frame we have between now and July 1.”

Marshall said that aside from Medicaid concerns, “99.9 percent of the budget is done.”

However, with no deal in place, it is hard for localities to plan their budgets.

“It’s the right thing to do,” he said of passing a budget, so he remains optimistic the state will work together and “we’ll be able to get a budget passed so Henry County and Martinsville can get their budgets passed.”


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