RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Lawmakers have a few more weeks of work in Richmond. Two of their biggest issues are still left to tackle — Medicaid expansion and a budget.
Democrats have said Medicaid expansion is their top legislative priority this year. Efforts to pass it failed in previous years.
Now, someone on the other side of the aisle is backing expansion — with conservative requirements.
“I think we have to provide solutions for Virginians,” said Del. Terry Kilgore (R-Scott). “That’s what people want. They don’t want the ‘just say no’ crowd.”
Kilgore, who represents southwest Virginia, said if Virginia is moving in the direction of expanding Medicaid, the state should do it in a conservative fashion.
He said he would support it under certain conditions like work requirements and co-pays.
He points to Kentucky, which recently expanded under a conservative governor.
In a tweet, Kilgore also said President Donald Trump is “open to more creative solutions for getting our hardworking families access to affordable healthcare than the previous administration. This is a real opportunity for conservative solutions to the problem.”
The lawmaker is hoping that resonates in Virginia.
“I think everyone wants to help give people a hand up, and I think this is the way to go. I think there will be support within the General Assembly,” he said.
But a fellow Republican disagreed on the House floor Friday.
Del. Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge) said Kentucky is good at bluegrass and bourbon, but not good at balancing budgets.
“Which is why I was so distressed to hear that we might be looking at Kentucky for guidance on how to expand Medicaid,” said Cline.
Expansion could bring coverage to hundreds of thousands of Virginians and billions in federal funds.
Opponents have argued Medicaid is a broken program that is already far outpacing revenue in Virginia.
House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) has not outright supported Medicaid expansion, but he has made it clear what requirements he would like to see before considering any compromise.
“Speaker Cox respects Del. Kilgore’s decision to publicly support a form of Medicaid expansion,” Cox’s spokesperson Parker Slaybaugh said in a statement. “The Speaker has shared six key principles for the dialogue with Governor Northam and is committed to ensuring conservative reforms, that protect taxpayers, are a part of any potential agreement.”
Those principles include a work requirement, like the one found in Del. Jason Miyares’ (R-Virginia Beach) HB338. It passed the House and is currently in the Senate.
Cox’s list of key principles also includes cost-sharing premiums, co-payments, fraud prevention and a free-market oriented model.
Medicaid expansion was baked into the governor’s proposed budget.
The House and Senate will have their budget announcements Sunday, which could provide more clues as to how the debate will swing.
“We’ve got to make sure our teachers are paid, our deputies are paid, our corrections officers are paid and our budgets are funded,” said Kilgore. “At the end of the day, are we going to sit here until June or July and fight something, or are we going to provide solutions that are going to work for the commonwealth?”