The Virginia legislature voted to expand government health insurance on Wednesday, joining 32 other states and the District of Columbia in expanding Medicaid coverage.
Budget bills HB 5001 and HB 5002 passed the Senate by a 23 to 17 vote, which included votes from four Senate Republicans who split from their party to join Democrats on the measure – Sen. Frank Wagner of Virginia Beach, Sen. Ben Chafin of Russell, Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr. of Augusta and Sen. Jill H. Vogel of Fauquier.
The bills were then approved by the House of Delegates by a vote of 67 to 31.
Governor Ralph Northam, who is expected to approve the budget, claimed that it will improve the lives of all Virginians.
“This budget is the culmination of five years of effort to bring our taxpayer dollars home from Washington and expand Medicaid. As a doctor, I’m so proud of the significant step we’ve taken together to help Virginians get quality, affordable care,” Northam said in a statement Wednesday.
The Medicaid expansion is expected to increase health care access for up to 400,000 low-income Virginians, a 40 percent increase from Virginia’s current program.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government has pledged to pay at least 90 percent of the expansion costs, which the Republican-controlled state legislature refused for years, fearing the federal government would break its funding promise, leaving Virginia in massive debt.
In celebration of what is largely seen as a win for the left, Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez said in a statement released Wednesday, “This is the difference between getting things done with Democrats and getting a raw deal under Republicans.”
Those on the opposing side, however, are more concerned with what might happen should the federal government disapprove of work requirements or renege on its funding assistance.
Virginia Senator Frank Ruff, District 15, outlined his concerns in his newsletter, saying, “One simply can look at other states that allowed this expanded overage in the past to see what we may face in just a few years. We do not have the resources to provide every individual every service that can be dreamed up.”
The measure is expected to take effect Jan. 1.