Press Club

Peter’s Take: Support Medicaid Expansion in Virginia

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotOne of the most important issues to come before the Virginia Legislature in its 2014 session is whether to expand Medicaid. There will be an enormous financial impact regardless of whether Virginia expands Medicaid or not.

Fairfax County has prepared a helpful three-page white paper summarizing the issues at stake. You can access that white paper here.

I support Medicaid expansion, as does our Arlington legislative delegation. I am particularly hopeful that a bipartisan coalition of Republicans and Democrats in the Virginia House of Delegates can form to work with Governor-elect McAuliffe to expand Medicaid.

As a practical matter, it’s very hard to see a bill that can pass both branches of the legislature and be signed by the Governor if the only test every politician applies is: “I will automatically oppose Medicaid expansion if I opposed the Affordable Care Act,” or “I will automatically support expansion if I supported the ACA.” Instead, the most constructive way for our legislators and our governor to approach Medicaid expansion is: “regardless of what I think of the ACA, what is the right way now to analyze the benefits and costs of expanding or declining to expand Medicaid?”

The Virginian-Pilot editorial board got it right when it concluded that the cost of resisting Medicaid expansion in Virginia would be “ruinous.” Citing Bill Hazel, the highly-respected Health Secretary originally appointed by Bob McDonnell, and recently re-appointed by Terry McAuliffe, that editorial board summarized our choices this way:

Virginia lawmakers can preserve the financial health of hospitals across the commonwealth, save state tax dollars, strengthen local and state economies, extend managed health-care to nearly 400,000 people, many of them working poor, and recoup nearly $10 billion in federal taxes paid by Virginians over the next five years.

Or they can continue the reckless political theater destined to grow more costly with every passing year, a play that will cause a financial crisis at hospitals all across Virginia.

The right choice for Virginia is to expand Medicaid.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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