The Virginia Senate on Wednesday passed a state budget that includes Medicaid expansion. The former state senator and lieutenant governor, a soft-spoken pediatrician and former Army doctor once wooed by Republicans, has close friends on both sides of the aisle.
In the end, three Republicans broke with their party to support expansion: Emmett Hanger Jr., Augusta, Frank Wagner, Virginia Beach, and Sen.
Virginia Democrats have pushed for years to expand Medicaid, saying their state should not pass up the roughly $2 billion in extra federal funding the program would bring to the state.
Nineteen of the 51 Republicans in the House joined Democrats in February to pass a budget bill that expanded Medicaid, apparently concluding that they have more to fear from energized Democrats and independents than from potential primary challengers on the right. It is expected to take effect January 1. Republicans in Virginia's General Assembly have resisted Medicaid expansion for years, despite the fact that 61 percent of residents supported it as early as September 2014.
But Vogel also said there's also much to be "proud of" in the budget, including a measure requiring private insurance companies to cover treatment for autism-spectrum disorders, something Vogel has championed for years. But in a statement Wednesday she said she would vote for the final budget including expansion.
Democrats campaigned heavily on expanding Medicaid last year and some House Republicans were eager to take the issue off the table before next year's election, when both House and Senate seats are up.
Later in the evening, the House of Delegates voted 67-31 for the same budget. The vote is expected later tonight.
According to the Associated Press, a tally from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that Virginia is the 33rd state to approve Medicaid expansion. Tim Kaine after the Senate passed the bill. The measure requires able-bodied adults to hold jobs or be in job training to qualify for the program with some exceptions. A majority of senators support it and should be allowed to vote.
Virginia's existing Medicaid program is one of the least generous in the nation.
Virginia's landmark vote comes on the heels of other recent Medicaid wins. Trump's recent budget proposal calls for repealing Medicaid expansion, and Mulvaney said the administration is "committed to addressing the unsustainable growth" of the program. But it's still very good news for up to 400,000 low-income Virginians who could become eligible for the wide array of services Medicaid provides.
"Going forward, my team and I will review this budget when it reaches my desk to ensure that there are no technical issues or unintended problems that may warrant an amendment and act upon it as quickly as possible", he added. The bill also boosts the Medicaid reimbursement rate to hospitals from 71 percent to 88 percent of health-care costs. And White House officials, including budget director Mick Mulvaney, have urged Virginia lawmakers this year not to expand Medicaid.
NBC12's Heather Sullivan is following today's votes in the General Assembly and will have more on 12News at 5 and 6.