RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia policymaking panel with its hand on the throttle and foot on the brake of Medicaid expansion learned Monday that theirs isn't the only Republican-led state still wrestling with the issue.
In a three-hour meeting, the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission learned little not already known other than how other states are handling the issue.
Legislatures in Michigan and Ohio, where Republican governors advocate expansion, are still pondering funding to expand the federal-state program that helps pay for health services for low-income families, the elderly, the blind and the disabled, said Vern Smith, a health finance expert who got his start in Medicaid in 1967 under GOP Gov. George Romney in Michigan.
Smith said that by opening up Medicaid to households with incomes up to 33 percent greater than the federal poverty level — or about 400,000 people in Virginia — the state would benefit initially from the federal government covering 100 percent of the increased enrollment. He noted that Republican governors Rick Snyder of Michigan and John Kasich of Ohio have both offered Medicaid expansion packages. Republican backing for Medicaid also has a precedent, he said, recalling that President Ronald Reagan supported a Medicaid expansion to women and children in the 1980s.
Neither the Ohio nor Michigan legislatures, he said, has written expansion into those states' budgets.
Commission member Del. Johnny Joannou, D-Portsmouth, pressed Smith on consequences to Virginia should a federal government deeply in debt someday default on its Medicaid obligations.