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 Monday, September 1, 2014
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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
540-483-5113
Fax: 540-483-8013

Governor advocates for Medicaid expansion
McAuliffe visits Rocky Mount hospital Friday
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Staff Photo by Stacey Hairston: Gov. Terry McAuliffe spoke at Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital Friday about his stance on Medicaid expansion. Seated behind McAuliffe is Melina Perdue, executive vice president of Carilion Clinic, and Bill Jacobsen, president of CFMH.

Monday, March 31, 2014

By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer

Gov. Terry McAuliffe visited Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital (CFMH) Friday afternoon on his tour around Virginia to advocate for Medicaid expansion.

As part of the federal Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA), Medicaid expansion would help pay for patients who have no means to pay but who will still need services, McAuliffe said.

The governor and Democrats in the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates support expansion of the healthcare program because they say Virginia will lose out on $4 billion in federal money if Medicaid expansion is rejected.

The governor and Senate have included Medicaid expansion in their biennial budget proposals.

However, Republicans say if Medicaid is expanded, the state may be stuck with a huge bill in the future as the federal government's financial obligation to the expansion dwindles and possibly ends.

Republicans also say the Medicaid program is already full of waste and fraud, and that needs to be addressed before expansion.

"We've run into one argument after another," McAuliffe said. "Over the next eight years, we will ship $26 billion out of the pockets of Virginia taxpayers across the Potomac River over to Washington D.C. That's going to happen."

"We'll get about $6 billion back automatically through the exchange. The issue is the other $20 billion," the governor said. "We can bring this money back, provide healthcare for 400,000 people and create 30,000 new jobs. This should not be a partisan political issue. This is morally and socially the right thing to do. It's also, economically, a no-brainer."

CFMH President Bill Jacobsen said Medicaid expansion would help his hospital stay afloat.

"Hospitals and health systems in Virginia are really caught right now between the state and federal governments as far as our funding for this, and I'm dealing with federal cuts," said Jacobsen. "Closing the coverage gap is a must to have sustainable operations here and across the commonwealth. This coverage gap is affecting 400,000 Virginians who are without coverage right now. This results in an unsustainable situation. We've got to fix it."

Jacobsen also pointed out that Virginians' federal tax dollars are going to other states, "to the tune of $5 million a day," because Virginia has elected not to expand Medicaid coverage.

"In our region, we have about a 23 percent uninsured rate," said Jacobsen. "We accept federal funding for transportation, education and military. Why is healthcare different? Why shouldn't the tax dollars be coming back to Virginia? Not only are we providing health coverage to individuals in the gap, but it will have positive impacts because that money that comes back to Virginia is less money we have to take out of the general fund, which will affect education, mental health, safety and commerce."

With the General Assembly failing to pass a new biennial budget and localities trying to finalize their own budgets while unsure of what the state will do in funding, McAuliffe has proposed a two-year pilot program for Medicaid expansion. He said the pilot program would be fully funded by the federal government, and at the end of two years if the program proved unsuccessful, Virginia could walk away "risk-free with no obligation."

"The Republicans in the House of Delegates say they won't even entertain discussing it, which I just don't understand," said McAuliffe. "You can't compromise if one side won't even sit down to the table."

Troy Keaton, vice-chairman of the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce, voiced concern with the pilot program and the expansion.

"The idea sounds great, but from a fiscal perspective, somebody else has to violate all the good financial principals you presented in order for this to happen," said Keaton. "In particular, the federal government would have to go even further into the red for this to happen. This creates a problem for somebody else because, obviously, this money doesn't just appear out of nowhere."

McAuliffe responded by saying the expansion is paid for with tax dollars.

"That's done already," he said. "If Virginia doesn't take the money, it will not reduce the deficit one iota."

"But, there are bigger issues here," said Keaton. "We have a responsibility as citizens and as business owners to say we're not only Virginians, but Americans as well. The federal government is on an unsustainable path itself."

McAuliffe stated that his job is to worry about the state of Virginia, not the federal government.

"I'm not the president," he said. "I'm the governor. My job is the Commonwealth of Virginia. If I wanted to get into the federal deficit, I would have run for Congress. I have to worry about Virginia. The vast majority of states are going to do this. Why should we be behind? I need your help to reach out to people. Let's do the smart thing and bring our money back home."

 
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