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The panel of state senators and delegates is supposed to make a decision this year.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
The panel of legislators considering whether Virginia should allow more people to be covered by Medicaid is looking more sympathetic to the idea, now that the state Senate has named its team.
The panel of five senators and five delegates is supposed to decide this year whether Virginia will expand Medicaid, using millions of dollars of federal funds available through President Barack Obama’s health care reform law.
Medicaid is the joint federal and state health insurance program for the poor and disabled. Virginia has some of the strictest eligibility standards for Medicaid in the nation.
The panel’s job is to decide if federal, state and insurance company officials can make a series of reforms the legislature and governor say are necessary for any expansion.
It would take the votes of three senators and three delegates to give the green light to expansion.
One of the Senate appointees announced Thursday, Janet Howell, D-Fairfax County , has said it would be “morally wrong” not to expand Medicaid, the joint federal-state health insurance for the poor and disabled.
State Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth , another newly named panel member, also supports expansion, while early in the General Assembly session, state Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan , commented that not expanding Medicaid costs Virginians $500 million a year in charity care and bigger insurance bills.
The other two senators on the panel are finance committee chairman Walter Stosch, R-Henrico County , and Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta County , who is chairman of the finance committee’s health and human resources subcommittee. Both have said they would like to see reform proposals before deciding on any expansion.
Speaker of the House Bill Howell, R-Stafford County , an outspoken opponent of Medicaid expansion, named the House of Delegates panel members in February.
They are Del. Jimmie Massie, R-Henrico County , whose comment upon his appointment was that he has serious concerns about the cost of expanding Medicaid, as well as Del. John O’Bannon, R-Henrico County , Del. Steve Landes, R-Augusta County , Del. Beverly Sherwood, R-Winchester , and Johnny Joannou, D-Portsmouth .
The Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission is to start meeting in June. It was formed as part of a compromise that won Democratic legislators’ support for Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation funding package, support that was critical given many Republican legislators protests that the governor’s plan was a huge tax increase.
McDonnell has said he doesn’t want to expand Medicaid “given the vast reform required to make our program cost-effective.”
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