For a fleeting moment, I thought Virginia leaders were going to stick to their New Year’s Resolution and avoid the partisan battles that have crippled many states and the federal government. Republican Speaker Cox worked with Democrats and offered some power-sharing committee assignments, and Governor Northam appeared to back off his strident position on Obamacare Medicaid expansion. But like most resolutions this time of the year, it lasted only a few days.
Unfortunately, in his State of the Commonwealth speech to the General Assembly, Northam outlined an extreme and partisan agenda, which was not well received by Republican majorities in the House and Senate. It continued when Democrats, demanding Medicaid expansion, spitefully killed the licensing of a rural hospital, leaving many in tiny Patrick County with limited access to healthcare. And while Speaker Cox did work with the opposition on most committee assignments, he kept a strong majority on the powerful Rules Committee, which is where he promptly parked many of the Democrats’ partisan bills.
This doesn’t bode well for a session we had hoped would enact proper Medicaid reforms. A national poll by the Foundation for Government Accountability in August 2017 found that majorities of likely voters oppose Medicaid expansion, support freezing enrollment in expansion states, and agree that an enrollment freeze would free up limited resources for the truly needy. But that didn’t stop supporters of Medicaid expansion from trotting out a questionable survey that claimed significant majorities of Virginians support expansion.
More than a dozen bills have been introduced to expand Medicaid. Democrats and the Governor have offered up no other solutions to handling the healthcare problems we have in Virginia – outside of simply expanding Medicaid to able-bodied adults. House leadership placed all of these bills in the Rules Committee where they can be properly vetted.
We are encouraged that Republicans are offering up a number of innovative and fiscally-responsible ways to cover the truly needy. Sen. Siobhan S. Dunnavant introduced SB781 that would request a waiver from the federal government to allow more flexibility in the use of Medicaid funds. Dels. Poindexter and Miyres introduced HB695 and HB338, which would create work requirements for Medicaid recipients. And Del. Rush offered HB368 to allow health insurance companies to offer insurance plans that are not strapped down by Obamacare, which would lower insurance costs and provide more options.
In the coming weeks, there will be lots of attempts to expand Medicaid in Virginia, but our position remains very clear. We will not support any attempt to expand Medicaid to able-bodied adults without dependents or any attempts to draw down more federal dollars. And that’s one resolution we will keep!
Promoting Economic Freedom,
The Middle Resolution