The news swept over Virginia like a big, blue tidal wave. Newly minted Speaker, Kirk Cox, and the Republican leadership in the House of Delegates have worked out a deal with Governor Ralph Northam to expand Medicaid in Virginia. The proposal will see Virginia agree to take temporary federal money in order to add 300,000 people to the medical welfare rolls in the state.
Expanding Medicaid coverage has been a goal of Virginia Democrats ever since Obamacare was first passed. It was a bad idea then, and it is still a bad idea now. The only difference between then and now seems to be the Speaker’s inability to keep his majority of Republican votes in line.
Now that the resistance to this bad idea has melted away, Republicans are looking to add some stipulations to the deal in order to try and make this look like a compromise instead of the straight up surrender that it is. Here are some of the highlights of this bill and why they will amount to nothing:
Republicans are touting a proposal to require able-bodied recipients of Medicaid to now work as a condition of receiving assistance. While this is indeed a worthy goal, and may affect some existing Medicaid recipients, it will have little effect on the category of people being added to the government dole. After all, an income up to 138% of the Federal poverty level requires actually having an income, and means they are already working. Since this “workfare” requirement will most likely not affect anyone benefiting from Medicaid expansion and will only affect existing recipients of Medicaid, one is left to wonder why Republicans didn’t pass this measure long ago when they had over 60 seats in the House of Delegates?
Nevertheless, it doesn’t even appear this will be a true work requirement, as support has coalesced around a bill put forward by Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach) that will require some form of work “or public service” (whatever that means) to fulfill this requirement. I suppose we will soon see many more community organizers in Virginia.
The federal government will temporarily cover about 90% of the cost of this program, leaving Virginia to fund the remaining 10%. The current proposal put forward on how to pay for Virginia’s portion is…wait for it…A NEW TAX on in-patient revenue for hospitals. That’s right. Your Republican controlled legislature is proposing a brand new tax on medical costs to help defray the cost of expanded medical payments, immediately making more expensive the very thing the government is now proposing to pay for. This means the costs for health care will increase for all Virginians, meaning bigger bills, higher premiums, and less money in your pocket.
The So-Called “Circuit Breaker”
The proposed budget supposedly includes a cut off switch for Medicaid expansion that is tied to the federal money supporting the program. Aside from the general opposition to unnecessarily addicting more people to governmental dependency, a major concern of expanding Medicaid is the promised reduction of financial support from the federal government to pay for the costs of the expansion. The proposal being floated states that if the federal government reduces their level of funding for the program, Medicaid expansion will end.
The idea that Virginia will begin providing free medical payments to 300,000 people, only to take it away when the federal money starts to shrink is not only laughable, it is insulting to our intelligence. After all, Speaker Cox is laying blame for his capitulation on this issue squarely on the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans for failing to fulfill their campaign promise of repealing Obamacare. That failure occurred because Republicans did not want to be seen as taking away the funds to support Medicaid expansion across the country.
Are we supposed to believe that Republicans in a future General Assembly will have the courage to prevent the continuation of Medicaid expansion (taking free stuff away from people who are already getting it) when Congressional Republicans and the President couldn’t do it, and the current crop of Republicans in control of the General Assembly don’t seem to have the intestinal fortitude not to give the people this free stuff in the first place?
What About Those “Savings”?
Some of the federal money that would come from Medicaid expansion would replace money Virginia is currently paying to cover half the cost of Medicaid services for people with mental illness or substance abuse issues, as well as pregnant women and prison inmates who require hospital care. This is projected to lead to a $420 Billion savings.
Are we looking to lower tax bills with this money? Of course not.
Are we looking to pay for I-66 widening to alleviate those $40 one-way tolls? Don’t be silly.
Are we looking to do anything transportation-related in the most congested area of the nation? Nope.
Your Republican House of Delegates is proposing to take this money and make a huge infusion of cash into public education, and give generous pay raises to State bureaucrats. This will simply increase the benchmark costs for public education and state level salaries for budget makers, and in two years their requests for increased funding will be ratcheted up accordingly. If anyone tries to sell you on this proposal by talking about the “savings” we will see from taking federal money, remind them that money that is spent on something else has not been “saved.”
This is a Bad Deal
Higher taxes, more government spending, more government dependency. There is nothing in this proposed “compromise” that is worthwhile. We are about to voluntarily place more Virginians into a state of dependency on both the federal and the state government which becomes a trap, both for the dependent and the ones paying the bills. It destroys the spirit and pride of those taking the money, and leads to a new generation of dependents as the children of welfare recipients are far more likely to be dependent on government assistance as well. Instead of expanding this cycle of dependency, our time would be far better spent dealing with the drivers that force ever increasing health care costs, so people can afford to take care of themselves.
It’s not too late to stop this proposal from becoming law, but that will be up to you.