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Virginia Governor Moves Forward on Medicaid Expansion Without Legislature

Teddy Wilson

During a press conference, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced vetoes of portions of the state budget, and laid out his plan for addressing Medicaid expansion.

After months of debate over whether or not the state would expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said Friday that he would move forward unilaterally without legislative action.

During a press conference, McAuliffe announced vetoes of portions of the state budget, and laid out his plan for addressing Medicaid expansion.

There has been much speculation about whether McAuliffe would or could bypass the legislature to expand Medicaid.

The Republican-controlled legislature passed a budget earlier this month that did not include a plan to expand Medicaid, which is expected to provide health insurance to 400,000 low-income residents in the state.

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During his remarks, McAuliffe said he would veto the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission (MIRC), calling it a “sham to pretend that the legislature is serious about Medicaid reform and expansion.” The governor noted that even former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli raised questions about MIRC’s constitutionality.

McAuliffe said he has instructed William Hazel, the secretary of health and human resources, and Ric Brown, his secretary of finance, and their respective staffers to no longer attend or assist with any “meaningless” MIRC meetings. The governor also vetoed an amendment that banned the state from expanding Medicaid pursuant to the Affordable Care Act.

“I am moving forward,” said McAuliffe. “There are several options available to me.”

McAuliffe said Hazel has been directed to work with federal partners in Washington, D.C., the insurance industry, health-care providers, university medical centers, nonprofit organizations, local health departments, and the hospital industry, and to deliver a plan no later than September 1.

“We can move Virginia health care forward even in the face of the demagoguery, lies, fear and cowardice that have gripped this debate for too long,” said McAuliffe.

This is not the first executive action McAuliffe has taken to bypass the legislature. In May, the governor directed the state’s health board to review the regulations governing clinics that provide abortion services. The health board is moving forward with the review process, which is expected to be completed by no later than October 1.

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