Poll: Even VA Democrats think Medicaid expansion will boost their health care costs


MEDICAID MONEY: Even Democrats think Medicaid expansion will increase their personal health care costs.

By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A vast majority of Virginians — even likely voters who generally support Medicaid expansion — say they believe their personal health care costs likely will go up if the program expands, according to a new poll by a free markets-oriented group.

While Virginians were pretty split on the issue — 42 percent of those polled are in favor, 41 percent are against — they tended to think expansion will involve some sort of sacrifice, according to the March 7-9 poll of 469 likely Virginia voters conducted by Campaign Management Services for the Foundation for Government Accountability.

More than 56 percent of likely Democrat voters said their health care costs are “somewhat likely” or “very likely” to increase with Medicaid expansion, while 87 percent of likely Republicans voters and 68 percent of likely independent voters said the same. All political groups were also less likely to support expansion if it would take away funding from schools, infrastructure and public safety.

“I think most polls that I’ve seen in Virginia always talk about Medicaid expansion and free money, but federal money is never free,” Christie Herrera, a senior fellow with the Foundation for Government Accountability, told Watchdog.org.

Herrera has testified before the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission about other free-market alternatives for helping the poor with health care.

The poll, executed by Action Point Campaigns, was conducted by automated phone calls, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. Other polls have shown similar outcomes on the expansion issue. A March Quinnipiac poll showed 45 percent of Virginian respondents favoring expansion, and 43 percent opposed.

Still, as Virginia hunkers down for yet another battle over Medicaid and the budget with a special session Monday, the FGA poll revealed there’s a lot on the line — financially and politically.

Roughly three out of four respondents who identified themselves as likely Republican voters said they would be less likely to vote for a state lawmaker who voted for expansion.

“This absolutely signals that Speaker (Bill) Howell and the House of Delegates are on the right track and it is a big red flag for Senators Emmett Hanger, Walter Stosch and John Watkins,” Herrera said.

Of the respondents, 233 were likely Republican voters, 44 were likely independent voters, and 192 were likely Democrat voters.

Other findings:

  • Democrats slightly favored shutting down the government in pursuit of Medicaid expansion. Independents and Republicans strongly opposed a shutdown.
  • Women were more likely to want to expand Medicaid now and reform it later, while men were more likely to want to reform the program first before considering expansion.
  • Younger and middle-aged people (under 55) generally supported expansion, while older people (55 and older) generally opposed expansion.
  • Independents equally wanted reform before considering expansion, and expansion before reform — 36.36 percent to 36.36 percent.
  • Democrats were more likely to support Medicaid expansion knowing that roughly one-third of the new population will be inmates, while Republicans and independents were less likely to support expansion knowing that.

See the full poll results online here.

— Kathryn Watson is an investigative reporter for Watchdog.org’s Virginia Bureau, and can be reached at kwatson@watchdog.org.

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