Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has given up on his fight for a full-on Medicaid expansion, proposing a limited boost to the existing Medicaid program on Monday.
McAuliffe has been battling Virginia’s Republican-controlled state General Assembly all year over expanding Medicaid, which was once a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act. The Democratic governor should have been in a strong position after winning election last November, but was unable to convince Republicans in the state House of Representatives to designate funding for the program.
When Republicans gained control over the state Senate in addition to the House when a Democratic senator resigned in June, McAuliffe was forced to accept a budget that didn’t include funding for a bigger Medicaid program. (RELATED: After Messy Battle, Virginia Legislature Rejects Obamacare Medicaid Expansion)
After losing the budget fight, McAuliffe vowed to close the so-called “coverage gap” through executive action, but his new proposal largely fails to do so. McAuliffe’s plan will provide Medicaid coverage to up to 25,000 new Virginians, mostly expanding coverage to those who are mentally ill. (RELATED: Virginia Medicaid Expansion Back On The Table: McAuliffe Rejects Ban With Questionable Veto)
Obamacare’s typical Medicaid expansion, which would allow those earning up to would have added up to 400,000 Virginia residents to the program’s rolls, according to The Washington Post.
“I want to be crystal clear that while the plan that I am announcing today will do a lot of good for a lot of people, it does not solve the larger problem of providing health insurance coverage to uninsured Virginians,” McAuliffe said in a press conference Monday. “The General Assembly had made it perfectly clear that they unequivocally have the power to expand and close the coverage gap. But…with that power also comes responsibility.”
McAuliffe’s plan will expand eligibility to 25,000 new Virginians — close to 20,000 with mental illness and another 5,000 children of low-income state employees. The program will also increase efforts to advertise coverage to those that are already eligible for Medicaid and will support new efforts to boost enrollment in Virginia’s federally-run Obaamcare exchange.
The plan will be financed by federal taxpayers — and McAuliffe promises to “aggressively pursue” even more federal grants to expand health care programs in the future.
McAuliffe’s defeat is especially stark as more Republican-controlled states are considering using Obamacare-provided federal funding to expand their Medicaid programs. Pennsylvania became the latest state to expand its program just last week, when Republican Gov. Tom Corbett made a deal with the federal government to use the Obamacare funding on private coverage.
So far, just 27 states have agreed to expand their Medicaid programs with federal funding from the Affordable Care Act.