VA Democrats in budget bind over Medicaid, Howell says


HOUSE IN ORDER: House of Delegates Speaker Bill Howell says Democrats, not Republicans, have the most to lose in a budget showdown.

By Kenric Ward | Virginia Bureau

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell on Monday rebutted the Washington Post, saying a proposed expansion of state Medicaid is merely Obamacare by a different name.

Citing the latest poll showing more Virginians oppose Medicaid expansion than support it, Howell told “It looks like a solid majority are standing with us.”

The Falmouth Republican was responding to a Post editorial titled “Va. Republicans’ Lonely Medicaid Stand.”

“I don’t consider our Medicaid stand lonely at all,” Howell responded.

Echoing Democratic Party talking points, the Post opined that the GOP-controlled House of Delegates was passing up “free money” from Washington and leaving 400,000 lower-income residents uncovered by rejecting the Senate’s “Marketplace Virginia” plan.

Similar “public-private” delivery systems have failed to contain costs as the Obama administration maintains the final say on all rules.

“Marketplace Virginia is Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, plain and simple,” Howell said. “It still relies on the promise of billions in borrowed federal money from the same people who promised Americans they could keep their health care plan.

“We cannot bet the fiscal future of the commonwealth on an IOU from Washington.”

As in the nation’s capital, Democrat politicians in Virginia are angling to blame Republicans if a budget is not signed into law by the state’s July 1 constitutional deadline.

Medicaid expansion remains the lone sticking point — and Howell said House Republicans won’t blink.

“Regardless of how anyone feels about Medicaid expansion, we cannot let this single disagreement stop us from passing a state budget.

“The pressure isn’t on us — we have passed a budget. It’s (Gov. Terry McAuliffe) and the Senate who are holding things up.“

Kenric Ward is chief of’s Virginia Bureau. Contact him at or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward