Members of the House of Delegates Democratic Caucus said they plan to push for Medicaid expansion and a state-run health care exchange in the upcoming General Assembly session despite Gov. Bob McDonnell's reluctance.
House Democratic Caucus chairman Mark Sickles of Fairfax said at a press conference Thursday complying with these two provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act "should be at the top of the agenda" during the upcoming session.
Last week McDonnell opted to go with a federal-based rather than a state-based health care exchange saying their were two many unanswered questions for the state to go it alone.
The governor has also said he does not want to go with an optional expansion of Medicaid to 138 percent of thepoverty level because he isn't sure the cash-strapped federal government will meet its agreements under the ACA to fully fund the expansion until 2017.
"It reckless and irresponsible for Gov. McDonnell to turn his back on over 400,000 of Virginia's poorest citizens - 84,000 of which are our children," Said Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington. "The fact is Virginia's hospitals and clinics are already providing care and treating the uninsured. Tax payers are already paying the bill."
Hope said data shows that by expanding Medicaid the state would save $1 billion over 10 years in the cost of treating the uninsured. This he said would cover the state's share of Medicaid expansion.
Hope also asserted that the move could create more than 30,000 jobs in the commonwealth.
Del. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, said she was puzzled that McDonnell would opt out of a state-run health care exchange when a commission he created advised creating one. She also noted that the idea of state health care exchanges came from Republicans in other states.
"It is time to put policy and the best interest Virginians and our current uninsured ahead of politics," She said. "It is time to move forward and implement the recommendations of the governor's own advisory commission to implement a state run exchange in Virginia as quickly as possible."
McClellan said at this point the state has until mid-February to decide to go with an exchange run fully by the federal government or enter into a federal-state partnership.
She said she hopes McDonnell will choose the later with an eye toward creating a state-run health care exchange in the future.
Hope said the House Democratic Caucus will be putting forth a resolution supporting the expansion of Medicaid and submitting a budgte amendment to allow Virginia the federal funds for the expansion.