Yesterday the Virginia House of Delegates again passed a budget plan that will go back to the Senate, which rejected the first proposal that the House passed earlier this year. Republicans control 21 of the 40-seat chamber, but at least two senators have indicated that they would vote for the current version. This budget plan is critical because it includes the expansion of Medicaid, with the potential to extend healthcare coverage to over 300,000 underserved Virginians. The majority of the funding would be provided under the Affordable Care Act.

The new budget proposal strengthens requirements that able-bodied Medicaid recipients seek jobs or job training, revoking coverage if they fail to do so for three consecutive months. It does allow funding to help recipients meet those requirements. The work requirements were added to placate Senate Republicans who might be more inclined to accept the deal.

GOP Senators Frank Wagner and Emmett W. Hanger are two of the latest representatives who have indicated that they will break ranks with their party to pass the budget. Senator Thomas K. Norment, the leader of the obstructionist movement, also sounded resigned to the idea that the budget could pass. Other Republican leaders want to wait until state revenue figures are released next month before finalizing the budget.  The deadline for passing the budget is July 1st, after which a state government shutdown would be inevitable.

We need Medicaid expansion to end the vicious cycle our disability clients are caught in. When they can no longer work due to disability, they lose their employer-paid health care coverage. Under current law Medicaid is only available to those who have already been approved for disability. No Medicaid coverage means no treatment, or at best minimal treatment through free clinics. That in turn means treatment records that are necessary to prove the disability claim don’t exist. The claim therefore gets denied and around we go.