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McAuliffe seeks say on Medicaid

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Gov. Terry McAuliffe is seeking final say on whether Virginia expands its Medicaid program if the commission tasked with the authority fails to make a decision by the end of this year’s session.

McAuliffe met with chairmen of the General Assembly’s money committees Monday to discussion what he’d like to see in the two-year budget that was drafted by his predecessor Gov. Bob McDonnell.

The move is likely to be opposed by the House of Delegates, where there is little support for the expansion of the program that provides health care for low-income Virginians — mostly children, pregnant women and blind and disabled residents. McAuliffe supports Medicaid expansion, which would expand coverage to residents making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Expansion has been one of McAuliffe’s biggest campaign pledges.

The decision on whether to expand Medicaid currently lies with the 10-member Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission, which includes five members from each chamber of the General Assembly. The commission has a high threshold to expand Medicaid — it must be supported by six of the 10 members, including at least three members from each chamber.

“The members of the MIRC should be the ones to decide to accept 100 percent federal funding for the next three years so that we can get 400,000 Virginians access to quality care and create as many as 30,000 jobs,” McAuliffe said in a statement. “But every day we wait costs Virginia taxpayers $5 million dollars and leaves those 400,000 [Virginians who could be covered by the expansion] in limbo. That is why I hope the General Assembly will transfer the authority to make this important decision to the governor in the event that the MIRC does not act by the end of this session. These families have waited long enough.”

Virginia is one of the states that has not chosen to expand its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. A 2012 Supreme Court decision made expansion of the program optional, and many Republicans have been wary of future costs for Virginia.

Under the current program, the federal government would pay 100 percent for the cost of Medicaid expansion until 2017, when its share would gradually start to decrease to 90 percent with the states making up the rest of the cost.

Virginia Business covered the issue in depth in its January cover story

McAuliffe said all of his spending proposals would be offset by savings, bringing the unappropriated balance in the budget from $50.9 million to $51.1 million.

Other proposals introduced by McAuliffe Monday include:

-          Doubling state funding for the Jobs for Virginia Graduates, which assists at-risk high school students with graduation and career planning.
-          Increasing funding to $25 million for loans for school construction..
-          Modernizing the adult and child welfare information systems.
-          Increasing funding for gasoline for Virginia State Police.
-          Funding unemployment benefits for military spouses.

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