No Speedy End in Sight in Virginia Budget Impasse - NBC4 Washington

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No Speedy End in Sight in Virginia Budget Impasse

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    No Speedy End in Sight in Virginia Budget Impasse

    Virginia is inching closer to a government shutdown as Republican lawmakers continue to spar over whether to expand Medicaid.

    Once united in their opposition to expanding the publicly funded health care program to about 400,000 low-income Virginians, GOP lawmakers are now split on the issue. That disagreement blocked passage of a state budget during this year's regular legislative session and sparked a new round of finger-pointing. State government will shut down on July 1 if no budget is passed.

    The House has already returned for a special session to pass another version of its budget, which includes Medicaid expansion. Two Republican senators support Medicaid expansion, giving the pro-expansion vote a majority in the upper chamber.

    But there are still unresolved disagreements among pro-expansion Republicans over whether to also impose a new tax on hospitals. And GOP Senate leaders have given no sign when there will be a full vote on the budget. The Senate will meet Monday to move the budget into a committee and hear a presentation on state finances.

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    The Affordable Care Act was created to give everyone access to health coverage they could afford. But hundreds of thousands of people in Virginia, will still be left without care That's because they fall in what experts are calling: the medicaid gap. News4's Doreen Gentzler reports.
    (Published Friday, Sept. 20, 2013)

    "The lack of clarity or urgency is obviously problematic on multiple levels," House GOP Speaker Kick Cox and other Republicans said in a recent letter to Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment.

    Cox supports Medicaid expansion, Norment does not.

    Medicaid is a federal-state collaboration that's become the largest government health insurance program. Under former President Barack Obama's health law, states had the option of expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income adults. Most states did, but Virginia Republicans blocked expansion for years over concerns of unsustainable long-term costs.

    But many Republicans switched positions this year, in part because a GOP-led Congress has been unable to repeal Obama's health care law.

    Local and county governments, which depend heavily on state funds, have advocated for lawmakers to pass a budget soon with Medicaid expansion. The administration of Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who won election last year running strongly in favor of expansion, has expressed concerns about what a delayed budget could mean for the state's AAA bond rating.

    Norment has downplayed concerns of a government shutdown while blaming House Republicans for any delays. The Senate could have easily passed a budget that didn't include Medicaid expansion and a related tax on hospitals, Norment said.

    "We could have given certainty to local governments and all Virginians in March by passing a clean budget without Obamacare's Medicaid expansion and a new tax on hospitals," Norment said in a letter responding to Cox's.

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