FARMVILLE — Governor Terry McAuliffe will consider whatever means are possible to achieve Medicaid expansion to provide coverage for up to 400,000 uninsured Virginians.
In an exclusive interview with The Herald on Thursday morning in Farmville, when asked if unilateral action by him between now and July 1 or a public-private partnership are among the strategies on the table to bypass the General Assembly, Gov. McAuliffe said, “I’m looking at all options.”
The governor, speaking to the newspaper prior to his appearance at Girls State at Longwood University, said he would be heading back to Richmond later in the day to have a three-hour session to go over the budget items.
“We’ll have a statement in the next day or two and explain how I’m going to go forward as it relates to the issues in the budget, the things I support and the things I don’t support,” the governor said.
Regarding the expansion of Medicaid, Gov. McAuliffe told The Herald, “I’m still working. This is obviously a top priority. Not only for the 400,000 but all Virginians. We have the opportunity of bringing $26 billion of our taxpayer money back from Washington to create 30,000 jobs, provide healthcare for 12,300 veterans…(receive) $202 million a year for behavioral health. This is a fight worth having and we’re working together, we need to get it done. It’s the common sense thing to do.”
No matter where one might stand, for or against the Affordable Care Act, the governor said, “It’s the law of the land.”
Because of the state’s refusal to participate in the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, Virginia has “forfeited, as of today, about $850 million. That money’s gone. I can never get it back,” Gov. McAuliffe said.
“Imagine with $850 million what I could do to help education,” Gov. McAuliffe said within earshot of LU president W. Taylor Reveley IV.
And how that $850 million would have helped the economy.
“But it’s gone and if I were a taxpayer in Virginia I would be outraged. To think all of our neighbors—West Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky—have all taken it. The most conservative governor in America, Michael Pence from Indiana, just took it.
“I don’t understand (the General Assembly’s refusal). It’s 100 percent paid for,” Gov. McAuliffe said. “And I do want everybody to understand…we’ve already paid it in and these 400,000 Virginians are still going to go to a hospital. Somebody is going to pay that bill. You are. And now you’re paying twice. We’ve already paid for it once. In other states it’s being taken care of by bringing their money back. But for Virginians, you are now going to pay again, because obviously this money comes out of our state budget to pay for this.
“So money that should go for higher ed., money that should go to early childhood development, money that should go to behavioral health, all the issues we deal with, that is now going to be impacted because that money will not be available for the things we need to do to build a 21st Century economy because we’ve said to Washington, ‘You keep our money. You go ahead and keep it.’
“It’s like the federal gas tax,” Gov. McAuliffe continued, “you pay it…every time you fill up. We bring that money back (to Virginia).”
The General Assembly’s refusal to participate in the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, he explained, “is like me calling the secretary of transportation and saying ‘You know what? We don’t need that (federal gas tax) money back. You keep it. You spend it. Let California have our money. Our roads are just fine.’
“It’s just nonsensical. This is not pro-business. It’s not morally the right thing to do. Sometimes,” he said, “common sense goes out the window. Sometimes I just can’t quite explain it.”
Referring to the sudden retirement of Democratic State Senator Phillip Puckett, which gave Republicans control of the Senate and doomed Medicaid expansion’s ability to survive in the budget, Gov. McAuliffe said, “It was very unfortunate what Senator Puckett did. Very unfortunate. But whatever reasons he had, as you know, in his district he himself told me that three hospitals will close and 20,000 of his citizens, whom he represented, don’t have healthcare.
“So he has to answer for that.”
Gov. McAuliffe expects to answer the General Assembly, and the people of Virginia, in the next 48 hours.