Will Va. governor expand Medicaid by executive order?

(WUSA9) -- Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe put out a new number Wednesday for the money he says the state is "forfeiting" to other states due to the legislature's failure to expand Medicaid. The governor said Virginia taxpayers have paid $740 million to the federal government that should be coming back to the state. Instead, he said, it's going to the other 27 states that have expanded Medicaid, including neighbors Kentucky and Maryland.

Appearing on WTOP's "Ask The Governor" program, McAuliffe again blasted the House Republicans for "fiscal irresponsibility" and not offering "one single idea" to address the health care coverage gap of 400,000 uninsured Virginians.

Eman Jafari, 55, of Annandale is one of them. She used to have coverage when she worked full time, but then she got sick and could not work, losing her coverage. Now, she doesn't work because she is the caretaker for her adult son who is disabled. He is covered by Medicaid, but no one else in the family has health insurance even though their father and Jafari's daughter Sasha work full time. Jafari says to afford health insurance, they would have to stop buying food to eat. It's not much of a choice.

Sasha, 24, has just graduated with an RN nursing degree from Northern Virginia Community College. She works two jobs full time, but does not have insurance. They hope to have the opportunity to buy it at a reduced rate, but that would only happen if Virginia expands coverage, and so far, House Republicans remain opposed.

Families like the Jafaris, where at least one person works, make up 70 percent of the 400,000 uninsured Virginians, said Governor McAuliffe.

Expanding Medicaid would not just provide health insurance for all those people, McAuliffe argues, it would bring needed money to the state and create 30,000 jobs.

An increasing revenue shortfall may put more pressure on Republican lawmakers to consider expansion. Budget committee leaders are already dealing with a $300,000 shortfall in tax revenues, and that could grow to $1.4 billion.

The Richmond Times Dispatch is reporting that the General Assembly's money committees are expecting a revenue shortfall that could exceed $1 billion over the next two years, forcing deep spending cuts in a biennial budget that still hasn't been approved.

The deficit may give McAuliffe more incentive to consider expanding coverage without the approval of the state legislature by using some kind of executive order. But Republican Del. Scott Lingamfelter, 31st, said that would be illegal.

Governors in Ohio and Kentucky have used executive authority to expand Medicaid, but it's unclear whether McAuliffe could do the same thing legally in Virginia since the state constitution requires the legislature to approve all appropriations, even federal funds.

Wednesday, McAuliffe would not talk about what an executive order might look like, saying "We're not there yet." To move expansion himself could avert a looming government shutdown before the deadline on July 1st.


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