Lawmakers: Don’t Look For Rush On Medicaid Reform

Posted: December 21, 2013

HARRISONBURG — Medicaid reform in the coming General Assembly session will be a methodical exercise.
 
“With the debacle that is the Affordable Care Act, I think there’s a lot of citizens worried about moving too quickly,” Del. Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave, said in an interview.
 
Landes is vice chairman of the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission, which met for the final time in 2013 this week. The panel is charged with overseeing reforms and whether to expand the program that serves low-income families with children, the disabled and others.
 
Its members are now looking at what types of reform it can get the House of Delegates and Senate to agree on in the 2014 legislative session that convenes Jan. 8, Landes said.
 
Expansion of the program, which Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe favors, will not win support in the conservative House, he said. Medicaid costs $7 billion a year in Virginia, roughly 20 percent of the state’s budget, and preliminary estimates show that cost increasing by more than $600 million in the next two years, Landes said.
 
Even though the Affordable Care Act says that the federal government will pick up the full cost for the first three years that states expand, Landes and most Republicans worry that Congress won’t keep its end of the bargain.
 
Sixth District Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, said as much during a town hall meeting in Verona on Tuesday.
 
“Where is that money coming from? You’re borrowing against your children and grandchildren’s future,” he said. “The federal government can’t fulfill that promise. …  It sounds like a deal that’s too good to be true.”
 
Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, has been more flexible to the idea of expansion, at least from the GOP’s standpoint.
 
Hanger, chairman of the Medicaid panel, said that while expansion is “obviously a political issue,” the state should try to improve its health care system as much as it can — and that could lead to the program’s growth to 400,000 Virginians.
 
“More and more people are being priced out of the market,” Hanger said.
 
Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or pknight@dnronline.com


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