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February 25, 2014

It’s Been in the Budget Before

Extending health insurance to more Virginians belongs in the state budget. In fact, despite what opponents of closing the health care coverage gap lead you to believe, extending health insurance to more Virginians has been a budget issue for the last three years.

Governor McDonnell made extending health insurance to more uninsured Virginians a budget issue in late 2011. He laid out a plan that would have allowed nearly 400,000 uninsured Virginians to get coverage with his proposed 2012-2014 budget.

Then, in 2012, the General Assembly eventually passed a budget that included the federal funding allocated to cover uninsured Virginians with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty line.

Following the Supreme Court decision in 2012, state lawmakers spent the 2013 session taking more budget actions on this critical issue. Governor McDonnell backtracked on his previous budget and moved to eliminate the program that would cover more of Virginia’s working poor. The General Assembly settled on a compromise, which was also detailed in the budget. Specifically, the compromise created the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission and gave its members the authority to close the coverage gap.

As the debate continues in 2014 on how to close the coverage gap, the backdrop continues to be the state budget.

In fact, there is no reason to think that the issue would be separate from the budget given the history and the need to bring Virginia’s federal tax dollars back to fund the program. Getting federal funds to help low-income workers pay for their health insurance is exactly like getting federal funds the state uses to fund education, transportation, and public safety.

You know where those issues play out? That’s right, the budget.

–Massey Whorley, Senior Policy Analyst

The Commonwealth Institute

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