Legislators weigh in about Medicaid over breakfast

Published 11:43 am Saturday, May 3, 2014

SMITHFIELD—Medicaid expansion and reform dominated the reports at the annual Richard J. Holland Post-Legislative Breakfast in the Smithfield Center.

So far, a state budget has not been passed. The Republican side of the General Assembly wants the Medicaid issue separated from the rest of the state budget. Democrats believe it’s an essential component.

“Medicaid expansion is not Obamacare,” said Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-18). “It is only one part of it. Expansion doesn’t change Medicaid in any way.”

She said there are several thousand Virginians without health insurance.

“People are going to get sicker and die and hospitals will close. What business is going to locate where are are no hospitals,” asked Lucas.

She went on to say that millions of dollars are lost every day that Medicaid is not expanded in Virginia.

“That’s our money.”

Gov. Terry McAuliffe was praised by her as being unlike any governor she’s ever served under, and said he’s voted not to allow the government to be shut down.

Del. Rick Morris (R-64) said he was pleased to hear that McAuliffe won’t shut the government down.

“But I will not be bullied to pass anything unless Medicaid is uncoupled from the budget. A ‘No’ vote is guaranteed,” he said.

The delegate mentioned two of his bills that had passed in the past session: House Bill 1084, which gives more power to Virginians in property rights; and HB 1217, regarding septic tanks.

Morris then returned to the Medicaid issue.

“Unfortunately, the budget has not passed,” he said. “Lucas and the Senate Democrats are holding the people hostage. That’s wrong.”

Sen. John Cosgrove (R-14), who had served 12 years in the House side of the Virginia General Assembly, noted how the Southeastern Public Service Authority has reduced its debt from $200 million to $35 million.

“We [the GA] need to get lean and we need to get mean in how we spend the public’s money, and I try to keep that in the forefront of my mind,” said Cosgrove. “Both the Senate and House work hard for you. We can’t complain about the workload because we asked for it.”

During the question-and-answer session, the legislators were asked if adequate health care was a right of the people.

“I believe in compassion of the human spirit, but government is not the solution. We are the solution,” said Morris.

Lucas noted that people “would not have Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security but for the fact that legislators voted for it — legislators that you elected.”

“Medicaid is an entitlement, not a right,” said Cosgrove. “It is correct that other legislator voted in and expanded Medicaid. I do not believe Medicaid should be in the budget. It should be in a special session. We need to have a clean budget.”