Virginia is gearing up for a big fight over Medicaid expansion set to take place during the April 11th special state legislative session, a special session which was called to decide whether or not to include it in the budget. Governor Ralph Northam is leading the movement for Medicaid expansion and is enjoying the backing of more than a dozen Republican delegates who support the measure (with work requirements). The opposition is led by Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (Tidewater area of southeastern Virginia), who cautions that Republicans are in charge and could stop expansion.
There is hope, however, that Medicaid expansion legislation could be passed, aiding 400,000 low-income residents. State Senators Frank Wagner and Emmett W. Hanger, Jr. drew strong criticism from their fellow Senate Republicans (who currently hold a 21-19 majority) for indicating that they would accept broader Medicaid benefits under the Affordable Care Act. Frank Wagner, from Virginia Beach, is considered a “renegade” for breaking with the GOP and conceding that Medicaid expansion is the compassionate, logical move for many of his constituents.
Why should Virginia vote for Medicaid expansion? For starters, the Republicans’ logic is beginning to crumble, as 30 states have expanded Medicaid coverage. The federal government covers 90% of the cost, and the fear that the government would renege on its commitment has proven itself unfounded, despite Republican control of Congress and the White House.
Second, Virginia is a relatively wealthy state, but its Medicaid program is one of the most restrictive in the country. Disabled adults aren’t covered if they earn more than $9,700 per year. Under Medicaid expansion, the cutoff would be $16,750.*
Finally, quite simply it’s the right thing to do. It is not a benefit or a privilege to have access to affordable health care, it is a right. We need to take care of one another and advocate for the underserved. Poor, disabled, and disadvantaged people should not be victims of healthcare discrimination.