Medicaid Debate Continues in Virginia


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PAGE COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) -- As lawmakers in Virginia debate Medicaid expansion, the lack of a $96 billion, two-year, budget could lead to a state government shutdown.

As local leaders came together on Monday to celebrate the new page memorial hospital, some mentioned the controversy in health care.

Mark Merrill, the president and CEO of Valley Health, a group that operates six hospitals, including Page Memorial, supports Medicaid expansion.

"It would be advantageous not just for the citizens so they can have quality health care, but also to the health care system in the Commonwealth," said Merrill.

There are about 400,000 people in Virginia without coverage and advocates want to close that gap.

Local representative Bob Goodlatte, a republican who represents Virginia's 6th Congressional District, said rather than expansion, Medicaid needs to be reformed.

"Reforming it would entail having the program work within its means," said Goodlatte.

He supports passing a budget separate from the Medicaid debate.

"It's important that they reach agreement, keep the state operating," said Goodlatte.

He said states shouldn't rely on the federal government.

"Medicaid is an important program, but there are not the funds to sustain Medicaid as it exists today. All of the federal money is borrowed, it's being borrowed against our children's and grandchildren's future," said Goodlatte.

Merrill said the federal government will cut $250 million just this year from Virginia hospitals and that money is needed.

"We understand the anxiety about well what's going to happen if the federal government elects not to continue their funding levels. We believe that there can be appropriate precautions put into place," said Merrill.

The clock continues to tick, as Virginia lawmakers run out of time to make a decision. Currently, 26 states have elected to expand Medicaid, while 24 have not.


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