Home Virginia Politics Gov. McAuliffe’s 9/1 Deadline for Medicaid Expansion Plan Has Come; Now What?

Gov. McAuliffe’s 9/1 Deadline for Medicaid Expansion Plan Has Come; Now What?


Do you feel like this summer went by fast? If so, can you imagine how quickly it must have flown by for Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe? As Gov. McAuliffe’s summer began (ust 73 days ago, on June 20), recall that he held a fiery press conference in which he blasted Virginia Republicans’ “unconscionable” refusal to expand Medicaid. Recall that he also vowed that, in spite of Republican obstructionism, we was “moving forward,” and specifically that Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel would “have a plan on my desk no later than September 1 of this year” to “move forward with healthcare.”

Well, September 1st has come and gone, and presumably Gov. McAuliffe has that plan on his desk now. So, should we expect a big, exciting announcement sometime soon (this week or next week perhaps)? Or, will the confident vows made as the summer began be quietly forgotten now that kids are going back to school, days are getting shorter, and tempers – if not temperatures – have cooled off a bit?  More to the point, were those vows ever realistic in the first place? Was there anything Gov. McAuliffe really could do unilaterally, with the Republican-controlled Virginia General Assembly firmly opposed? According to an excellent article by Dave Ress of the Daily Press, it sure isn’t looking promising. A few key points:

*”With an overwhelming majority in the House of Delegates resolutely opposed to Medicaid expansion — or anything that looks like it and that clears the way for Affordable Care Act dollars to flow through state coffers — the governor doesn’t have a lot of choices.”

*”[T]he policy wonks and state government grunts who he’d normally ask for ideas aren’t hearing many requests…’The screaming silence has been deafening.'”

*”[S]ignals emerging from the governor’s office point to a fairly modest proposal to whittle down the number of low-income Virginians who don’t have insurance.”

*”‘Unlike in January, he now has to deal with a wholly Republican legislature. He has less leverage, and it only gets worse with time for a one-term governor — unless he can turn the Senate in 2015,’ said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato.”

*”Meanwhile, one idea of making an end run around the General Assembly, by setting up a public-private partnership to expand Medicaid, seems to be going nowhere.”

And last but not least:

*”[T]he state’s tax revenues look likely to run $2.4 billion below the current budget for this year and next. McAuliffe has already said the state needs to cut spending.”

So, the bottom line here is brutally clear, unless I’m totally missing something: Gov. McAuliffe probably can’t do much, if anything, to expand Medicaid in Virginia, barring a beyond-miraculous reversal in the Republican-controlled General Assembly. What does that leave? Only one option, and it’s not a great one: go into full-out fundraising/political mode, and work 24/7 to a) win back the State Senate for Democrats in 2015; and b) gain a bunch of seats in the House of Delegates next year as well. Barring that, I really don’t see how Gov. McAuliffe gets anything significant on health care (or anything else major that requires the General Assembly to approve, fund, etc.?) done during his governorship. Yeah, it totally sucks, but as the saying goes, politics ain’t beanbag.


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