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McAuliffe Faces Uphill Battle On Medicaid Expansion In Virginia

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Newly inaugurated Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe is preparing for an epic political battle — trying to expand Medicaid to 400,000 uninsured Virginians.

McAuliffe campaigned on a platform of expanding health insurance for the poor and disabled, a key part of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. But now that he's taken office, he has to move from campaign rhetoric to the mechanics of getting things done. And he's facing a Republican-led House of Delegates that's solidly against expanding Medicaid.

George Mason University professor Toni-Michelle Travis says the new governor needs to find a way to reach across the aisle.

"I think there's going to be a new strategy for trying to get legislation passed because the Republicans would stonewall, especially on the Medicaid expansion," Travis says.

University of Virginia Center for Politics analyst Kyle Kondick says Republicans in other states have agreed to expanding Mediciad because of the money involved. The federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost through 2016, decreasing incrementally to 90 percent for 2020 and subsequent years.

"It's all about money," Kondick says. "It's getting money from the federal government and basically suggesting that if our state does not get that money it will go somewhere else."

But University of Mary Washington professor Stephen Farnsworth says any Republican who agrees to Medicaid expansion will likely face a primary fight.

"I always hate to say that there's a zero percent chance that something is going to happen. But this is pretty close to zero because of the opposition that is the Republican definition about how they feel about Obamacare."

Democrats say they are ready to make the argument to House Republicans: support Medicaid expansion or waive goodbye to millions of dollars collected from Virginia taxpayers that will go to other states.

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