Va. GOP Can't See End to Medicaid Standoff, Fears Loss of Bond Rating

Wednesday, 16 Apr 2014 03:17 PM

By Kathryn Watson, Watchdog.org

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If leading Virginia Republicans are right, the battle over Medicaid expansion could leave the state wounded.

Virginia House Republicans are "more resolute" than ever on holding off Medicaid expansion, Majority Whip Jackson Miller said Tuesday during a conference call with reporters.

Since neither Republicans nor Democrats in Virginia want to budge, the standoff over whether to expand Medicaid could very well pass the June 30 deadline to lock down a budget.

"This standoff, I don't see an end to it," Miller said.

Failing to write a budget in time could tank Virginia's AAA bond-rating, a prized status that allows the state to borrow money at a low interest rate.

"It's going to be disastrous for the state," Speaker of the House Bill Howell told reporters, referencing a government shutdown scenario, much like the federal shutdown last fall over Obamacare. "I'd be surprised if we didn't lose our triple AAA bond-rating as a result."

State House Republicans want to pass a budget now and deal with the question of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act later, while Democrats and some Republicans in the Senate want to pass a budget with a version of expansion.

Howell said he's "optimistic that cool heads will prevail," but he added he has no evidence to back up his optimism.

"I'm just an optimistic guy," Howell said.

On the left, Democrats are fighting just as hard for a win.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe campaigned on Medicaid expansion last year, even proposing to fund some of his expanded programs with money he said would come from growing Medicaid.

"There have been a number of proposals offered that would close the coverage gap," McAuliffe said last week in a news release. "The House and Senate know that I am open to a variety of options that could be used to expand [healthcare] coverage, including a private marketplace option. It is time for members of both chambers to come together and get this done."


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