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The Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission says the public can comment through its website. The panel is also holding a public hearing in October.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Should Medicaid be expanded in Virginia? That’s been a question for a legislative committee since June.
Now, the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission is inviting public comment on the question, which could be decided by the end of the year.
More than 300 people have so far submitted their written opinions to the commission’s website.
The panel has also scheduled a public hearing for 1 p.m. Oct. 15 in the General Assembly building in Richmond.
Making more people eligible for Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled, is a key part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The law makes federal funds available for expansion but leaves the decision up to individual states.
Virginia’s General Assembly passed a two-year budget in March that allows for Medicaid expansion, but only if there are reforms in 19 areas to make the program more efficient and cost effective.
The job of deciding whether those reforms have been accomplished falls to the commission, which is made up of five members of the House of Delegates and five members of the Senate.
A majority, with at least three members of each chamber voting yes, is needed for the expansion to move forward.
The commission’s chairman, Sen. Emmett Hanger, R- Augusta County, said at a meeting last month that an up-or-down vote should be based on the simple question of whether the reforms have been met.
But Hanger acknowledged the intense public debate over the expansion, which comes as "Obamacare" opponents are still seeking to derail the larger law, in saying it would be appropriate to hear comments from Virginians.
“Keep in mind that it is public,” he said at the time, “so you want to be sure your remarks are appropriate for the public to read.”
Comments can be submitted, and read, at mirc.virginia.gov.
“This is very simple … our Federal Government is OUT of $,” Ann Collins of Salem wrote in one of the comments. “Virginia will go broke trying to cover all these new people and you can explain to our children ... what a MESS you have left them!!!”
As many as 400,000 low-income people could benefit from the expansion, many of them among the working poor in Virginia.
“It’s good for the economy and it’s the humane thing to do,” Alane Callander wrote. “Please extend Medicaid!! I’ve seen the effects of lack of health care coverage … it’s devastating. We can make things better for thousands who are so deserving of help.”