Augusta County community celebrates Medicaid expansion

Published: Jul. 11, 2018 at 1:21 AM EDT
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Some people out in Verona celebrated Medicaid expansion in Virginia after lawmakers voted to expand coverage


"We're feeling excited. 300 to 400 thousand more Virginians are now going to have access to healthcare and I'm so glad that Senator [Emmett] Hanger was able to come here and celebrate with us tonight," said Ronna Wertman with Virginia Organizing.

The event is part of a statewide week of celebration. The Staunton-Augusta-Waynesboro chapter of Virginia Organizing plans to continue making people in the community aware of the new coverage.

"Maybe working with our local hospital, the department of social services and maybe doctor offices to see what they can do to help make people more aware that they will be eligible," said Wertman.

Senator Emmett Hanger — who was a crucial Republican vote in making Medicaid expansion happen for Virginia — was in attendance.

State Republicans rejected efforts to expand Medicaid in Virginia for years, saying the program's costs were unsustainable. But that near unanimous opposition crumbled this year, and several Republicans joined with Democrats to pass a budget last week that included expanding the health care program for the poor.

GOP Sen. Emmett Hanger credited Northam's low-key approach to getting Republican support this year.

"Gov. Northam is someone that I don't agree with quite frequently, but I trust him," Hanger said earlier this year.

It was President Trump's embrace of work requirements for low-income people on Medicaid that helped prompt some Virginia GOP lawmakers to support expansion. And a GOP-led Congress' inability to repeal Obama's health care law last year also helped convince Virginia Republicans that the time was right to expand Medicaid.

The Northam administration expects to begin enrolling new Medicaid recipients at the start of next year. Virginia officials previously estimated that only about 300,000 people out of 400,000 eligible would actually sign up for the coverage. The cutoff is 138 percent of the poverty level, which is about $30,000 a year for an adult in a three-member household.


The Associated Press contributed to this article.