Top Va. Republican, Democrat swap letters to begin talk of possible Medicaid expansion

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Medicaid expansion has been a core issue this General Assembly session.

With more seats in the House, Democrats have been optimistic they will get it passed this year.

Earlier this month, House and Senate Democrats came out and pushed Medicaid expansion as their top joint legislative priority.

Now, Republicans say they are open to the conversation – with some stipulations.

In an exchange of public letters, the state’s top Democrat and top Republican have signaled they are ready to try and find some common ground.

Gov. Ralph Northam and House Speaker Kirk Cox swapped statements Monday and Tuesday, both laying out their willingness to begin a dialogue on health care.

Republicans have been reluctant to expand the program they describe as broken and growing at an unsustainable rate.

In his letter, Cox emphasized that Republicans will not support “straightforward” expansion. They are seeking significant reforms and strong taxpayer safeguards.

“Medicaid expansion is not the panacea,” said Cox. “You have a lot of other things in health care that are real problems.”

On Tuesday morning, a Republican-led House committee advanced legislation that would implement work requirements for the existing Medicaid program.

“For us to have a dialogue, we need a signal that those types of reforms are going to be very seriously considered because they’re key,” said Cox. “If not, you have a program that in other states that has totally busted the budget.”

In Northam’s written response to Cox, he did not bring up work requirements, but the Democratic governor did say he accepts the Speaker’s invite to begin a dialogue on health care.

Northam said they “can and should” discuss how to make the state’s Medicaid program more efficient and effective.

“If we work together, we can get more Virginians the coverage they need to lead healthy and productive lives, we can give hospitals in rural communities the support they need to survive, and we can take real steps together to end our addiction crisis,” Northam wrote in the letter.

House Minority Leader Del. David Toscano (D-Charlottesville) said he’s optimistic Republicans will work with them and that talks will turn into action over the next few weeks.

“If they have a different way of providing that same kind of help, we’re willing to look at it. And I think it’ll be part of a continuing conversation,” he said.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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