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Virginia Officials Debate Benefits And Drawbacks Of Possible Medicaid Expansion

In Virginia, the General Assembly panel that will decide whether and how to expand Medicaid is looking at the experiences of other states and listening to experts.

Drew Gonshorowski with the conservative Heritage Foundation said federal funds that pay for the expansion through 2016 would be beneficial at first—until the state had to pay 10 percent of costs, totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.

“And those sorts of costs have negative economic impacts in the future that we’re not talking about. And we would expect that in order to fund this, we’re going to have to cannibalize other social programs," he says.

The Commonwealth Institute’s Massey Whorley disagrees.

“That stands in stark contrast to the 50 percent that we pay for our base Medicaid population. So even at 10 percent, Medicaid expansion is a very good deal for Virginia," he says.

Some analysts said Virginia’s supply of doctors would not cover all new enrollees, in part because the program pays them only 80 percent as much as Medicare. They said a better option is to enroll many through the subsidized health insurance exchange, which provides better pay for doctors.


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