2018 Virginia General Assembly Session
On May 30, 2018 the Virginia General Assembly ended a months-long stalemate and finally adopted a budget that was then sent to the Governor’s desk to be signed. We are extremely pleased to report that this budget included an expansion of the Medicaid Program here in Virginia to income levels set forth the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or, “Obamacare”, as it has come to be known. Over 400,000 uninsured Virginians (ages 18-64) with incomes of up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level will now receive better access to healthcare.
This year’s budget negotiations were unique to be sure. Normally, Virginia prides itself on adopting a budget by the end of the General Assembly session. This year that was certainly not the case. After a
tide-turning election in the fall of 2017, the Virginia House of Delegates only held control of their Chamber by 1 seat. This minute margin encouraged them to work with Governor Ralph Northam (D) to craft a budget compromise that included expansion. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans were not swayed by the most recent elections and staunchly refused to include expansion of Medicaid in their version. This led to the body adjourning in March with no biennial budget.
In April, Governor Northam called a Special Session in the hopes of reaching a compromise with Senate Republicans. Senator Tommy Normant (R), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, successfully held up progress for several weeks.
On May 30th the Senate returned and debated HB 5001 and HB 5002 and considered twenty two floor amendments. All of the floor amendments were rejected and after almost 10 hours of debate both bills were approved. Included in these bills were directives for DMAS to work with the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) to approve an immediate state plan amendment (SPA) which will allow VA to draw down federal dollars for expansion. A waiver will also be applied for which will create work requirements, cost-sharing, and other items to the Medicaid program.
This is wonderful news for uninsured and underserved populations in Virginia. The work, however, is not over. There will now be a great deal of work to be done to implement expansion and additional features such as work requirements. There are also additional provisions in the budget that could affect our members in the long term. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide you with timely updates regarding any developments that might concern our membership.