Virginia Begins Accepting Public Comment on Medicaid Expansion

Published October 1, 2013

Much of the fate of Medicaid, health care, and possibly Virginia’s infrastructure as a whole rests in the hands of 10 General Assembly members. But Virginians still have a say—at least, they have a forum to be heard. Time will tell whether their input matters.

The Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission—the legislative team of five state senators and five state delegates who will help decide how to reform Medicaid and whether to increase enrollment under Obamacare—is now accepting citizen comments online. It’s a very simple, generic comment submission page, but one with the potential to help chart Virginia’s course.

The commission, which was created as part of a compromise between Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell and Democrats in the general assembly, will also hold a public comment-only session on a to-be-determined day in early October.

“Obviously, we’re hearing from a lot of citizens who are opposed, and I think this will just add to that,” said Republican Delegate Steve Landes, the commission’s co-chairman. He has questioned how Virginia can afford expanding a program it’s already spending billions on now.

Once members and staff edit out personal information such as addresses and cell phone numbers that citizens submitted with their comments, those suggestions will likely be posted for all to see, said Joe Flores, an MIRC legislative staff member.

Taxpayers Could Face Bigger Bill

Every Virginian has a stake in the future of Medicaid, Landes said. If the state chooses to expand enrollment, as it is allowed to do under Obamacare, the number of Virginians on Medicaid would soar from roughly 1 million of the state’s 8 million people, to about 1.4 million.

“There’s always a cost associated with providing any service, whether it’s partially funded by the federal government or not,” Landes said. “It has an impact on citizens because they pay for the services not only that they receive but that others receive.”

Virginians also have to consider what will happen if the federal government doesn’t live up to its cost-sharing promises for expansion and leaves the state with an even bigger bill to pay, he added.

“If the federal government provides funds, that’s one thing,” Landes said. “If they don’t, then the states are saddled with that responsibility. There is going to be a direct impact on not only the services provided through Medicaid, but it can impact other services like education or public safety or other things the state is responsible for funding.”

In the end, Landes noted, federal funding and state funding still comes from the same place—taxpayers’ pockets.

Kathryn Watson ([email protected]) writes for Virginia Watchdog.


Internet Resources:

Medicaid Innovation and  Reform Commission: “Submit a Public Comment”