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March 6, 2014

Head Scratcher

Think members of the House of Delegates are hesitant to accept federal funds to pay for health care and save the state money? Think again.

House leadership has been resolute in their position that Virginia should not accept the billions of federal dollars available to help nearly 400,000 low-income Virginians afford health insurance. They claim that’s because the federal government can’t be trusted to keep up its end of the bargain.

Yet, the House seems perfectly happy to use federal funds in other health programs. Take for example their recent actions on the state budget.

Instead of closing the coverage gap, the House claims they bolstered the safety net by restoring cuts outgoing Governor McDonnell made to Medicaid payment rates for hospitals.

How’d they do that? By using $36.3 million in federal funds, along with $35.3 million in state general funds.

The House also took steps to fund services for low-income pregnant women and young children in a way that saves the state $400,000.

How’d they do that? By using $1.2 million in federal funds instead of state funds.

These approaches are EXACTLY the same as what the state could do if it closes the coverage gap. Virginia lawmakers could accept the federal funds to cover low-income Virginians and generate savings from programs that currently help them get care through the safety net.

Given all the rhetoric, you’d think House leaders wouldn’t dare use federal funds for health care or anything for that matter.

–Massey Whorley, Senior Policy Analyst

The Commonwealth Institute

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