Lawmakers Divided on McAuliffe's "Healthy VA" Plan
RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) -
Virginia lawmakers are reacting to the governor's new plan to expand healthcare to thousands in the commonwealth. While Democrats have applauded the measure, Republican leaders say they don't think the plan can proceed without their blessing.
Medicaid expansion, the issue that bitterly divided lawmakers, has resurfaced in light of the governor's new plan to cover more Virginians. Now partisan differences have returned to take center stage. All year long Virginia Democrats and Republicans have clashed over dealing with the 200,000 Virginians that currently fall into the healthcare coverage gap.
On Monday, Governor Terry McAuliffe unveiled his 10-point "Healthy Virginia" plan. He and other Democrats have long advocated for closure of the coverage gap. The proposal does not go as far as unilateral expansion of Medicaid, but Republicans have stopped short of embracing the compromise.
Governor McAuliffe's plan would provide more coverage to some of the commonwealth's most vulnerable populations. The multi-step program would reach out to those with serious mental illnesses, pregnant women, children, and veterans. It also includes a push to leverage federal grants and inform the public about their options.
Democratic lawmakers have praised the governor's actions, while Republicans have backed away from any type of approval.
Republicans say they are ready to challenge the governor's plan, but none were willing to talk about their ideas on camera.
A statement from Republican Speaker of the House William Howell says "The proposal will require General Assembly approval to be made permanent and will of course be given due consideration during the 2015 General Assembly session."
Senate majority leader and Republican Tommy Norment said in a statement "We have an opportunity to put the contentiousness of the last eight months behind us and return to enacting policies in the manner prescribed by the constitution of Virginia."
On the other side, Democrats say the governor's multi-step plan reaching out to those with serious mental illnesses, pregnant women, children and veterans moves Virginia in the right direction.
"I'm very comfortable with what the governor's done and very proud of him for doing it," said 9th District Senator Donald McEachin (D). "I think the governor is doing everything he can to expand healthcare for Virginians, and that's to be applauded. I think the fact that you're hearing mumbling about whether the governor has exceeded his authority, it certainly suggests that they intend on making it political football."
You won't have to wait very long for the showdown to play out. The General Assembly returns to Richmond next week and will take up the debate in the state capitol once again.
Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (R-James City) issued the following statement regarding Governor Terence R. “Terry” McAuliffe's announcement of his “A Healthy Virginia” plan:“By not attempting to enact major policy changes unilaterally by executive fiat, and without General Assembly approval, Governor McAuliffe has wisely averted an unwarranted constitutional crisis. The policies he announced today will, ultimately, require General Assembly approval. They will, of course, be given due consideration during the 2015 session. Now, however, we have an opportunity to put the contentiousness of the last eight months behind us and return to enacting policies in the manner prescribed by the Constitution of Virginia.”
Senator Howell Statement:
“I am reviewing Governor McAuliffe's proposed changes to Virginia's Medicaid system. The proposal will require General Assembly approval to be made permanent and will, of course, be given due consideration during the 2015 General Assembly session. The House of Delegates is set to convene on September 18. As I have said before, I am committed to a full and fair debate on Medicaid expansion at that time.”- Speaker Bill Howell