Virginia Senate Approves Medicaid Expansion

RICHMOND, VA — Today, the Virginia Senate approved expanding Medicaid under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The expansion of health care to over 300,000 poor Virginians was included in an amendment to the Senate Budget, SB 800. The expansion was approved on a bipartisan vote of 36 to 4, including all Democrats and a majority of Republicans.

Senator Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax) said, "We have over a million Virginians without medical insurance. This amendment will give insurance to almost 400,000 of those people. These are our neighbors—mostly working people, who clean our rooms while we stay here in Richmond, or work in fast food restaurants, or provide personal care for our disabled. This amendment will bring in $5 million a day and generate close to 30,000 good jobs in Virginia. We have to move in this direction, and there is absolutely no point in delaying and depriving people of care."

Senator Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) said, "What is driving this Commonwealth to its knees is the cost of health care. People's salaries have fallen behind the rising cost of health care. People who don't have coverage, if they receive care at all, they get it in the emergency room. That's not efficient and it's not in the best interest of the patient. And who pays for that? The hospital takes the hit, and our premiums take the hit. This is a good opportunity to make sure more people have coverage, and to make sure more people get quality health care."

Senator Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) said, "Right now, the nearly 400,000 people eligible for this expansion are getting care. But we’re not doing this in a sensible way. They’re going to emergency rooms when they’re truly sick, and the outcomes are worse. This makes no sense. Our hospitals are paying for these individuals, but the only way they can do that is by passing the costs on to us, through higher premiums."

"I also want to make another point. People have talked about all the money flowing into the state because of this. It would cost Virginia $137 million over ten years, but bring in $29 billion in federal funds. There’s a lot of economic activity that comes with it, and jobs — jobs in areas of the state that really need them. This is a win-win," added Senator Favola.

 Senator George L. Barker (D-Alexandria) said, "Under this program, between 2014 and 2022, every dollar and 70 cents the federal government puts up, we will pay a penny. A dollar and seventy cents in federal dollars, and we will pay nothing more than a penny over that entire period of time. How could we reject this, when we know it’s good for Virginia businesses? It’s good for the citizens of Virginia. It’s good for health care services. It’s good for our providers. And we’re going to continue to move forward with Medicaid reform to make sure it operates well in the long term. I think it’s something that we need to do."

Senator John S. Edwards (D-Roanoke) said, "We should seize this historic opportunity. Up to 400,000 new individual will be covered under this expansion. These people are too poor to buy insurance but make too much money to get coverage currently under Medicaid. And we would be bringing billions and billions of dollars into the Commonwealth. This is an opportunity we must seize."

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