Note: As you read this editorial, keep in mind that Senator Mark Obenshain is one of the Republicans obstructing Medicaid Expansion and that Delegate Todd Gilbert opposed the House-passed legislation to expand Medicaid coverage to needy Virginians.
VIRGINIA’S MEDICAID IMPASSE, COURTESY OF THE GOP
Editorial, The Washington Post, March 20, 2018
VIRGINIA’S STATE Senate Republicans have dug in their heels once again to oppose a Medicaid expansion that would extend health insurance to roughly 400,000 citizens. Their stance is impervious to public opinion, which favors expansion by large margins; at odds with many of the GOP members in the House of Delegates and in some other Republican-controlled legislatures nationwide, who have switched sides in the debate; and heedless of hard-working Virginians for whom there is no health-care alternative save the emergency room.
The Senate Republicans stood pat even though they propose no alternative. They remained unmoved even though their stance left the legislature at an impasse and at risk of a government shutdown unless a solution is found by July, having adjourned this month with no finished budget to present to the governor for his signature.
They have justified their opposition by warning that the federal government, which would pay for 90 percent of the expansion indefinitely, is an unreliable source of funding. Yet here we are, four years after that warning was first sounded in Richmond, and with Republicans in charge of the White House and Senate — and still the federal government shoulders nearly all of the cost in the 32 states (in addition to the District) that have opted for expansion. In the meantime, Virginia has turned its back not just on its own citizens but also on billions of dollars in federal spending.
Republicans have complained that the two-year budget passed by the House, which includes Medicaid expansion, does not feature sufficiently stringent work requirements. It escapes their notice that a large majority of current Medicaid recipients already work, as do an estimated 70 percent of uninsured Virginians. Nor do they mention that many of those who don’t work — college students, sole caregivers for small children, and the disabled — would be exempt from work requirements anyway.
In the GOP-controlled House of Delegates, 19 of 51 Republicans joined ranks with 49 Democrats to support an expansion that would unlock hundreds of millions of dollars in annual federal funding, yielding savings for the state that would provide raises to teachers and state workers. Yet to state Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City), that was somehow evidence not of rare bipartisanship on a contentious issue but of a failure of leadership in the lower house.
We asked another Republican, state Sen. Stephen D. Newman, who represents a district that includes Lynchburg and Roanoke County, how he justifies denying health coverage to as many as 6,500 of his own constituents. He explained he does back measures that would extend coverage to the neediest, but conceded they would cover fewer than 100 people in his district. As for others who lack coverage, he has no plan, no alternative and no vision.
Virginia refuses to cover single adults under Medicaid no matter how poor they are. It turns its back on thousands of indigent residents, including children and the disabled. Its per capita Medicaid spending is close to the bottom of the 50 states. There’s a word for a rich state whose policy suggests contempt for its least fortunate citizens: disgrace.
Richmond Times Dispatch
March 22, 2018
Note once again: The House-approved appropriations bill to which these gentlemen refer was opposed by Delegate Todd Gilbert, and is opposed by Senator Mark Obenshain. It is a budget that would be of great help to Shenandoah County.
Morgan, Rust and May Column
Harvey Morgan of Gloucester represented House District 98 for 32 years; Tom Rust of Herndon represented House District 86 for 14 years; Joe May of Loudoun represented District 33 for 20 years.
We write as former Republican members of Virginia’s House of Delegates, privileged to have had more than 60 years of combined experience in the legislature.
Those years provided opportunities to advance fiscally responsible policies, and our records reflect a consistent effort to promote such plans through deliberative discourse and critical thought.
So, we were heartened by the initiative shown this session by Republican delegates to garner bipartisan support for a solidly conservative and fiscally responsible budget. The plan:
- Provides funding to raise pay for teachers, law enforcement officers, and behavioral health staff members;
- Designates funding for state employees to receive a bonus, contingent on the state hitting its revenue targets, later this year;
- Invests significantly in the Port of Virginia and Virginia’s colleges and universities, major economic drivers in the commonwealth; and
- Utilizes federal tax dollars to combat the opioid epidemic, expands access to health insurance for Virginia’s working poor, and attempts to stabilize insurance premiums for other working Virginians.
These are worthy and important matters of fiscal policy, and the House budget plan is a testament to the diligence of the Appropriations Committee and its technical staff.
Consider that the House achieved its goals while using approximately the same Virginia tax revenue as a competing plan produced by the Senate.
The Senate’s plan provides for no pay increases for teachers or law enforcement officers, no bonus to state employees, and considerably less investment to the port and colleges.
And it leaves billions of Virginians’ federal tax dollars on the table in Washington, which Virginians have paid while receiving no benefit.
Few readers of this column would argue that Washington is more capable than Virginians of the prudent use of our tax dollars. Yet, through its budget plan, this is the argument that the Senate has chosen to make.
The current budget stalemate is largely a consequence of a coarsening political culture and hyper-partisanship that does not embrace “the Virginia Way.”
Too often, special-interest advocacy groups politicize policy decisions in a bid to manufacture division, which then is leveraged for their own fundraising activities. In the process, terms will be redefined to create a perception that belies reality and misleads the public. Feelings reign, rather than facts.