March 19, 2014
Dozens of people attended a forum and Town Hall meeting at Monticello High School on Wednesday night. The event was hosted by Sen. Creigh Deeds and Del. David Toscano and focused on the state budget and a main driving force behind the General Assembly's inability to pass a budget -- the ongoing debate over Medicaid expansion.
Without a finalized state budget and no clear picture of what will happen with Medicaid in the Commonwealth, the two lawmakers listened as citizens shared their support and concerns regarding the plan under the Affordable Care Act that would use federal funds to expand health insurance to about 400,000 Virginians.
"Virginians are paying about $2.9 billion a year in increased taxes and fees to pay for the Affordable Care Act," said Deeds. "We could get back as much as $2.1 billion a year through Medicaid expansion. We could get back over $5 million a day under the worst scenario."
While the two lawmakers in the front of the room support Medicaid expansion, a group of opponents holding signs reading "Virginia is not for Obamacare" and "Hands off my health care!" stood in the back of the room.
"There's a division in opinion. I knew that going in," said Deeds. "When you're in this process, you just have to get as much information as you can and make the decision you're comfortable with. Even when there are opinions I don't agree with, it's good to hear from people. I learn something every time."
Toscano says the federal government would cover all costs for the first three years and then drop to at least 90 percent in 2020.
"People will have a debate about whether the feds will pay up. They've always paid up so far. There's never been a time that they've missed a payment," said Toscano.
Others fear that is not guaranteed.
"Really what I see is a bunch of people making promises you cannot keep and I don't expect you to keep," one opponent told the politicians.
But Erika Viccellio, executive director of the Charlottesville Free Clinic, went before Deeds and Toscano to ask them to continue fighting for Medicaid expansion.
Viccellio says the 60 free clinics spread throughout Virginia serve less than one of every ten people in the state who are uninsured.
"We can't be the answer. We can't cover the gap that will exist if we don't do insurance expansion in Virginia," she said. "Let's put people before politics -- our neighbors, or friends -- and find a way for everyone to have access to insurance so that they can have affordable care."
With neither side of the aisle seemingly willing to cave on the Medicaid debate, some want lawmakers to step back and reexamine the issue.
"It's not that whoever is against this Medicaid expansion doesn't want people to be covered. It's how they're getting covered and it needs to be judicious," said Cindi Burket. "I'm really concerned that it's part of the budget process. I think it should be separated out. The budget should be voted on and then we can look at this troubling issue from all angles and every perspective."
But Deeds says he's not in favor of separating the two matters.
"It's already there. It was put there last year. It's part of the budget," he said. "To pretend it's not part of the budget is not going to work."
The General Assembly will reconvene on March 24 for a special session on the budget. They have until the end of June to have a budget in place or face a potential state government shutdown.
Both Deeds and Toscano say they are confident both sides will come to an agreement before the deadline.
March 19, 2014
Wednesday evening, Senator Creigh Deeds and Delegate David Toscano are holding a town hall meeting in Albemarle County.
Delegate Toscano has called this forum to hear what people in our area have to say about the Medicaid debate.
The meeting will be from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. tonight at Monticello High School.
The General Assembly adjourned on March 8th, without passing a budget. They need to pass one by the end of June.
Democrats want to pass a budget that includes Medicaid expansion. But Republicans want to discuss Medicaid separately from the budget. There will be a special session in Richmond starting March 24th.