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Fredericksburg chamber backs Medicaid expansion

BY JIM HALL / THE FREE LANCE–STAR

The board of directors of the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce voted Thursday to support expansion of the Medicaid program.

The local business group said its endorsement is contingent on reforms to the program and continued federal funding.

But with its vote, the chamber joins a chorus of other individuals and groups who support expansion of the federal/state health plan.

Expansion would extend insurance coverage to about 300,000 Virginians and also mean jobs and increased federal spending in the state, the chamber group said.

“Having too many uninsured patients hurts our quality of life because many of our fellow citizens are not as healthy as they should be,” Barry DuVal, president and chief executive of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, said in an op–ed piece last week in the Richmond Times–Dispatch.

Fred Rankin, president and chief executive at Mary Washington Healthcare, told the local chamber board Thursday that he supported expansion.

Rankin told a public forum in December that hospitals such as Mary Washington, Stafford and Spotsylvania Regional have seen a decline in federal Medicare revenues and need a more inclusive Medicaid program to offset the loss, he said.

The Affordable Care Act calls for states to expand their Medicaid programs to include those who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $15,400 per year for an individual.

However, expansion is voluntary, and Virginia leaders have said they don’t like the idea. They said they fear high costs and a lack of state control.

Virginia is one of 13 states opposed to expansion. Twenty-one states support it.

But in recent weeks, some state lawmakers have warmed to the idea.

Last week, the state Senate put into its budget language authorizing the expansion if the federal government lets Virginia have more flexibility in certain parts of the program.

The House of Delegates’ budget has more strings attached to the expansion and delays it.

The difference in the two proposals will have to be negotiated in budget talks. Any compromise will have to get Gov. Bob McDonnell’s signature.

Jim Hall: 540/374-5433

jhall@freelancestar.com

 

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