Sen. Kaine: Republicans Secretly Want Va. Gov. to Expand Medicaid

Monday, 26 May 2014 06:36 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine says some of his state's Republicans have a secret wish: that Gov. Terry McAuliffe will expand Medicaid through executive order so they won't alienate their own party by voting for it themselves.

"I actually think there are some who would actually rather he do it in an executive way," Kaine told The Hill. "They want it to happen, but they don't want to vote for it to happen and they'd rather he do it."

The Democratic governor last year promised, while running for office, that he would expand Medicaid, and Republicans have been attacking him for that promise, saying he does not have the administrative power to enlarge the program.

But for an expansion to go through, it would likely have to be through an executive order, as the governor has tried to push through legislation but lacks enough votes.

Sources told The Washington Post earlier this month that McAuliffe and his advisers are contacting lawyers, lawmakers and healthcare experts about how to pass an order without going through the Republican-controlled House.

An executive order expanding Medicaid would likely be legally challenged. In addition, McAuliffe has tied his Medicaid expansion plan to the state's budget, which has a deadline of June 20, after which the state government will shut down if it is not approved.

Republican lawmakers oppose that plan as well.

"Our firm belief is Medicaid and the budget should be considered separately," said Matthew Moran, a spokesman for state House Speaker Rep. William Howell, a Republican. "Proponents have taken the entire state budget hostage and are threatening a shutdown if they don't get their way on Obamacare."

Expansion opponents are concerned that the federal government won't keep its promise to pay for Medicaid. States will have to start paying their Medicaid bills in 2016, after a two-year period in which the federal government will foot the bill. By 2020, states will need to pay 10 percent of their Medicaid bills, but many experts say that amount will grow.

But supporters say expanding Medicaid will help hundreds of thousands of Virginians obtain health insurance coverage without the state's having to pay.

Only two other governors have been able to expand Medicaid without going through their legislatures.

Kentucky Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear used an executive order, and in Ohio, Republican Gov. John Kasich accepted federal dollars through the state's Controlling Board, a move that Republicans and anti-abortion groups said overreached the board's authority.

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