House boots McAuliffe Medicaid expansion, again

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RICHMOND, Va. ??? In another rebuff to Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe???s Medicaid expansion bid, House Republicans propose boosting funding for mental health care and free clinics instead.

???The House Republican proposal will strengthen the safety net for the neediest people in Virginia. It increases access to services without creating a new government program,??? said Delegate John O???Bannon, R-Henrico.

The House Appropriations Committee will consider the budget plan 1 p.m. Sunday. The health-care package includes $124.2 million more for mental health care and ???targeted safety net services for needy Virginians.???

???Last year, the General Assembly made significant investments in mental health care. We are building on those investments,??? said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Chris Jones, R-Suffolk.

Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Steve Landes called Medicaid expansion ???the wrong approach.???

???It relies on the false promise of free federal money and creates a new welfare entitlement system for able-bodied working adults,??? the Augusta Republican said.

With Republicans holding a veto-proof majority in the House, the GOP plan figures to win easy approval. At this point, the more closely divided Senate has not indicated it has any designs on Medicaid expansion.

Spokesmen for McAuliffe ??? who was at a Brookings Institution forum in Washington, D.C., to tout ???advanced technologies??? ??? did not respond to Watchdog???s request for comment.

Craig DiSesa, legislative policy director for the market-based group, Middle Resolution, said, ???Removing Medicaid expansion from the governor???s budget amendment and defunding the Healthy Virginia initiative are further evidence that Speaker Bill Howell and the House Republicans are serious about reducing Virginia???s dependence on the federal government, and, at the same time, trying to take care of the most vulnerable in Virginia.???

Healthy Virginia began enrolling individuals with serious mental illness last month after Washington approved a Medicaid waiver to allow the program.

DiSesa applauded Landes??? resolution calling for studies into Medicaid cost drivers, including ???fraud, inefficiencies and verification inadequacies.???

Kenric Ward is a national reporter for and chief of the Virginia Bureau.