Medicaid Commission Seeks Public Input - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Medicaid Commission Seeks Public Input

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Medicaid Expansion and Reform Commission Medicaid Expansion and Reform Commission

State lawmakers want your input as they debate reforming and expanding Medicaid in the commonwealth.

Expansion is an optional provision of the federal Affordable Care Act - more commonly known as "Obamacare" - which goes into effect January 1, 2014. Virginia is one of a handful of states still deciding whether or not to move forward with expansion, pending reforms.

Supporters of expansion, a group largely comprised of Democrats, say the idea is a no-brainer. The health care law states that the federal government will cover all of the costs of expansion for the first three years, dropping down incrementally to cover 90 percent of expenses after that.

But those opposed to expansion, mostly a contingent of Republicans, are more skeptical. They worry Washington will not be able to hold up its end of the bargain, failing to deliver on its promise to help cover expansion costs.

In the middle of it all is Virginia's Medicaid Expansion and Reform Commission. The group is comprised of seven Republicans and three Democrats from the House and Senate, as well as two ex-officio members - Secretary of Health and Human Resources William Hazel and Secretary of Finance Richard Brown.

Now, the commission wants your input.

"I'm pleased that we're going to be able to take a lot of public comment on this," Republican commission member Delegate John O'Bannon said. "We have the choice to either expand that or to not expand that, and do as other states have done and just take care of those folks by other methods."

Democratic Delegate Jennifer McClellan hopes all Virginians will weigh in on the issue, especially those who might receive coverage.

"For the 400,000 Virginians who are currently not covered by insurance at all, who would be directly impacted by the decision, it's very important that their voices are heard because they have not been a part of this discussion up until now," she said.

But before Virginia moves forward with expansion, the state says a series of reforms to the Medicaid system must first be enacted to help control anticipated costs of expansion for the state.

Public commenting opened September 4, and within days more than 100 people had already submitted feedback. This is the first time a commission has accepted this sort of online public comment, and staff members say the volume of submissions has resulted in a serious backlog. They are busy screening responses for personal information, as well as obscene and inappropriate content.

If you want to weigh in on the Medicaid expansion debate before the next commission meeting October 21, click here.

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