Warner and Kaine push bill that would give Virginia more Medicaid expansion money

Committee ranking member Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) talks with committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing concerning foreign influence operations' use of social media platforms, on Capitol Hill, September 5, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

From The Bulletin, the Mercury’s blog, where we post quick hits on the news of the day, odds and ends and commentary.

Virginia was late to the Medicaid expansion game, but its Senators in Washington, D.C., are trying to help it make up for lost time — and cash.

Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, along with Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, introduced legislation last week that would give Virginia, and the 11 other states that expanded Medicaid after 2014, the same full federal match as those that expanded the program earlier.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government picked up the entire expansion tab from 2014 to 2016, then its contribution started to decline. But because Virginia waited until last year to expand, the federal government is only picking up 90 percent of the bill.

Warner and Kaine’s legislation, dubbed the States Achieve Medicaid Expansion (or SAME) Act, would guarantee a new expansion state 3 years of full federal funding before phasing down to 95 percent in year four, 94 percent in year 5, then 93 percent in the sixth year and 90 percent for every year after.

“It’s crazy that for so many years, Virginia taxpayers were footing the bill for states that had already expanded Medicaid,” Warner said in a news release, adding that the proposed legislation “encourages the states that have yet to take the same step to expand Medicaid as Congress intended.”

The ACA had intended to expand Medicaid programs in every state to include those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or $25,100 a year for a family of four. But a 2012 Supreme Court decision made expansion optional.

Warner and Kaine’s proposal would save Virginia hospitals an estimated $300 million per year in the first three years, according to the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association.

“By guaranteeing states the same federal Medicaid funding incentives regardless of when they expand, this bill will help Virginia with its expansion program and encourage states that have not yet expanded Medicaid to make the same smart move,” Kaine said in the release.

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Katie O'Connor
Katie, a Manassas native, has covered health care, commercial real estate, law, agriculture and tourism for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Richmond BizSense and the Northern Virginia Daily. Last year, she was named an Association of Health Care Journalists Regional Health Journalism Fellow, a program to aid journalists in making national health stories local and using data in their reporting. She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary, where she was executive editor of The Flat Hat, the college paper, and editor-in-chief of The Gallery, the college’s literary magazine.