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Business leaders back private option for Medicaid expansion

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A group of influential Virginia business leaders is urging the General Assembly to adopt a proposal using federal funds to operate a private health-care plan for low-income families and the uninsured.

“We believe Virginia can and should close the Medicaid coverage gap, expedite the return of federal dollars to the commonwealth, and continue the ongoing Medicaid reforms,” says a letter from the group addressed to Republican House Speaker Bill Howell and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw. 

The group endorses the “Chamber Plan” put forth by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and 17 other business groups across the state. The plan proposes a set of “free-market principles” for creating a private insurance plan for people eligible for an expanded Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Medicaid expansion was envisioned as an integral part of the ACA. However, a Supreme Court ruling determined that expansion was optional for the states.

Without expansion, some residents may fall into a coverage gap in which they are not currently eligible for Medicaid and also don’t qualify for premium subsidies under the federal health-care exchange.

Medicaid expansion has become a divisive issue in the General Assembly with the Democratically controlled Senate backing a proposal similar to the Chamber Plan creating a private plan funded primarily by federal dollars. The Republican-dominated  House of Delegates opposes Medicaid expansion in any form, saying the commonwealth cannot rely on the federal government promises to shoulder most of the additional cost.

The impasse threatens to delay passage of a two-year budget for fiscal years beginning this July.

The letter says the Chamber Plan “would draw down Virginia’s share of federal funds while concurrently reforming our health-care delivery system for those eligible for Medicaid.

“With nearly 400,000 uninsured Virginians and billions of Virginia’s tax dollars headed to Washington that could pay for this coverage, Virginia needs to find a way to draw down our share of these health-care dollars.

“We urge the House and Senate budget negotiators to find a solution that will make the Commonwealth the national model for improving access to quality healthcare while promoting sound fiscal stewardship. We believe this includes finding a way to ‘yes’ during the current state budget deliberations.”

The letter is signed by :
• Thomas N. Chewning, the retired CFO of Dominion Resources;
• Louis S. Haddad, president and CEO of Virginia Beach-based Armada Hoffler;
• Steven A. Markel, vice chairman of Richmond-based Markel Corp.;
• Cheryl P. McLeskey, the widow of Hampton Roads developer F. Wayne McLeskey Jr. and the owner the real estate firm McLeskey and Associates in Virginia Beach;
• Alexander B. McMurtrie Jr. a member of the House of Delegates from 1971 to 1981 representing Chesterfield County;
• W. Sheppard Miller III, chairman of KITCO Fiber Optics and president and CEO of Light Tech Fiber Optics, Virginia Beach;
• Richard S. “Major” Reynolds III, president of the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation and former member of the House of Delegates; and
• John Sherman Jr., former CEO and president of Scott & Stringfellow Financial Inc.

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