A powerful conservative group is wading into Virginia's fight over Obamacare's Medicaid expansion.
In a new radio ad, Americans for Prosperity says new Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe's bid to expand the low-income insurance program is akin to forcing the Affordable Care Act on Virginia's citizens, and says the expansion would diminish the quality of care for residents of the commonwealth.
Further, the "Shutdown" ad blames supporters of the Medicaid expansion for the current budget impasse in the state Legislature.
"Lets face it: Medicaid expansion is Obamacare, and it's threatening the quality of health care for millions of Americans," says the ad's narrator. "In Virginia you could lose your health care, or your doctor. And some legislators might even shut down our state government over it."
While Koch groups claim they stayed out of the federal shutdown debate the last time around, they're injecting their opinion — and dollars — into the battle in Virginia.
"This is bad policy that will likely significantly reduce the quality of care for hundreds of thousands of Virginians, and it is irresponsible for some legislators in Richmond to put politics over people by holding the budget hostage and threatening a government shutdown over Obamacare," said AFP-Virginia State Director Sean Lansing.
Virginia briefly appeared poised to adopt its own version of Medicaid expansion, which would use federal funds to buy private plans on the insurance exchange for low-income individuals. A similar plan was approved and implemented in Arkansas, and the state's Legislature is currently debating its renewal. The Arkansas government is also at risk of a shutdown if members of the House cannot agree on a way forward.
Moderate Virginia state Sen. John Watkins, a Republican, proposed a bipartisan Medicaid expansion plan that would include provisions to make it more palatable to conservative members. The proposal would require unemployed coverage recipients to look for work, require a percentage of their wages in payment, and allow the state to back out in the future, according to The Washington Post. It would extend coverage to those below 138 percent of the poverty level and use $1.7 billion per year in federal taxes collected in Virginia under the health law to buy private plans.
However, disdain for Obamacare in any form remains too strong for some lawmakers, and the House decisively voted down the plan 67-32. Sixty-six of the 67 members of the House voted against it.
Each chamber has passed its own budget proposal, and neither seems prepared to budge on the issue of Medicaid expansion. The Virginia Legislature needs to pass a budget before March 8 or risk a special legislative session, and potentially a shutdown.
McAuliffe made Medicaid expansion a priority during his campaign, and is currently attempting to garner support and keep good on his promise.
The Virginia Chamber of Commerce and state business leaders have called on Republican representatives to accept the Medicaid funds, saying it would benefit the state's economy. Hospitals are pushing for expansion as well, as they face funding cuts as a result of the ACA.
"There's a battle in Virginia between President Obama, Governor McAuliffe, and those committed to quality health care," warns the AFP-Virginia ad.
Time is limited to find some kind of truce, and coverage for 400,000 Virginians is on the line.