Lawmakers in Richmond are back for another week of work, with focus firmly fixed on the debate over Medicaid expansion. Now, business groups are coming into the fray with their own arguments.
The business perspective is an important one. Supporters of healthcare expansion say it will be a big help for businesses large and small across the commonwealth. Now those businesses are tossing in their two cents, on both sides of the issue.
The final push is on, as lawmakers in both houses prepare to hash out a budget compromise before March 8. That's less than two weeks to come to terms on healthcare expansion in Virginia - and now business groups are coming into the conversation.
“The cost of healthcare and the overall health of Virginia's workforce - that includes our workforce - has become a competitiveness issue,” said Gary McCollum of Cox Communications Virginia.
The Virginia Chamber of Commerce says healthcare expansion is good for businesses across the state, but only if done cautiously.
“We're not here today to endorse straight Medicaid expansion,” said Barry Duvall, president and CEO of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
Similar to the "Marketplace Virginia" plan proposed by the state Senate, the chamber wants to help purchase private insurance plans for low-income Virginians using federal tax dollars paid under the Affordable Care Act.
“Can we return $15 billion of that money back to Virginia?” said Gary Thompson, chairman of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
But some are skeptical.
“Not everybody in the business community thinks expanding Medicaid is a good idea,” said Nicole Riley, of National Federation of Independent Business Virginia.
The NFIB says its members oppose any sort of expansion of the Affordable Care Act.
“Many business leaders prefer complete reform of Medicaid before tossing more money on a raging wildfire,” said Riley.
Chamber members agree reforms are needed, but a private option to expansion is too important to pass up.
“It's a practical, business principle approach that in the long run will help all of our businesses and all of our citizens of the commonwealth,” said McCollum.
Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce Press Release
(Charlottesville, Virginia – February 25) The Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce today announced its support for “expanded health care coverage “in Virginia, under the federal Medicaid program or other options under consideration in Virginia.
The Chamber support comes in “Chamber Resolution (14-1a): Support of Expanded Health Care Coverage in Virginia,” approved by the Chamber Board of Directors at its regular meeting, this morning, Tuesday, February 25th. A copy of the Chamber Resolution is attached.
The Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to representing private enterprise, promoting business and enhancing the quality of life in our greater Charlottesville communities. The Chamber’s more than 1,100 member and affiliate member enterprises employ more than 45,000 people in our community, representing an estimated total payroll of more than $1.75 billion a year.