Virginia Senate approves Medicaid expansion

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Virginia is on the cusp of expanding Medicaid after the Senate on Wednesday narrowly approved a budget that would allow the state to cover as many as 400,000 low-income people.

The House, which already voted in favor of expansion, will have to vote again before the bill can go to Gov. Ralph Northam (D).

Assuming it passes, Virginia will become the 32nd state to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare.

The expansion is a major victory for Virginia Democrats and other ObamaCare advocates, who have been fighting for six years to convince enough Republicans in the state to accept federal money to pay for the expansion.

Under ObamaCare, the federal government originally covered 100 percent of the costs of states that expanded Medicaid beginning in 2014. In 2017, the federal share dropped to 95 percent; it will drop to 90 percent in 2020, but never fall below that amount.

The expansion agreement comes at a cost for Democrats, as the state will eventually submit a waiver request to the federal government to impose work requirements and premiums on beneficiaries.

The Trump administration has made state innovation a priority and has promised to fast-track Medicaid waivers, especially those that will impose work requirements on beneficiaries.

Four states have been granted permission to do so – Arkansas, Kentucky, Indiana and New Hampshire – and six others have pending waivers.