House Republicans Seek Medicaid Audit
Two-Year External Review Possible
HARRISONBURG — Republican leaders in the House of Delegates on Monday announced their preferred alternative to Medicaid expansion: an audit of a system they say contains wasteful spending.
Instead of growing the health care program to include about 400,000 low-income Virginians, the conservative lawmakers introduced a resolution that would direct the Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee to hire an outside agency to review and audit the Medicaid system.
The committee is the General Assembly’s independent study team composed of senators and delegates. The two-year review would complement the work of the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission, a group of state lawmakers that has been eyeing Medicaid reforms.
Del. Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave, is the commission’s vice chairman and participated in Monday’s announcement.
“The more we’ve looked into this, the problem is the cost associated with our program even without expansion,” he said in a phone interview. “[The external audit] allows us to really do something we’ve never done.”
Medicaid serves low-income families with children, the disabled and others, and the federal government will pick up the full cost for the first three years that states expand under the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.
Led by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Democrats favor expanding the program, noting that federal money is available for it.
“[E]very day we wait costs Virginia taxpayers $5 million and leaves those 400,000 [residents] in limbo,” the governor said in a recent press release.
Landes and most Republicans, however, fear that Congress won’t live up to its funding promise, and urge reform rather than expansion. Medicaid costs $7 billion a year in Virginia, roughly 20 percent of the state’s budget, and has grown by 1,600 percent in the last 30 years, said House Speaker Bill Howell, a Republican.
And Republicans seem unmoved by news that paints a brighter economic future for Medicaid.
McAuliffe announced last week that a 2012 estimate, which predicted the cost of expansion through 2022 would be $137 million, was now incorrect.
New numbers from the Department of Medical Assistance Services show that instead of costing the state money, expansion would save the commonwealth $1 billion during the same period.
Landes said he’s not sure if the new numbers are fact or convenient timing: McAuliffe took office this month.
“You make a 180-degree switch like that to a certain extent, we need to look at what they’ve done,” he said.
A House committee is expected to act on the resolution this week.
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