By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau
ALEXANDRIA — Much of the fate of Medicaid, health care and possibly Virginia’s infrastructure as a whole rests in the hands of 10 General Assembly members.
But, Virginians still have a say — at least, they have a forum to talk. Time will tell whether their input matters.
The Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission — the legislative team of five state senators and five state delegates who will help decide how to reform Medicaid and whether to increase enrollment under Obamacare — is now accepting citizen comments online. It’s a very simple, generic comment submission page, but one with the potential to help chart Virginia’s course.
The commission will hold a public comment-only session on a to-be-determined day in late September or early October.
“Obviously, we’re hearing from a lot of citizens who are opposed, and I think this will just add to that,” said Republican Delegate Steve Landes, the commission’s co-chairman who has questioned how Virginia can afford expanding a program it’s already spending billions on now.
Once members and staff edit out personal information like cell phone numbers and addresses that citizens submitted with their comments, those suggestions will likely be posted for all to see, said Joe Flores, an MIRC legislative staff member.
Every Virginian has a stake in the future of Medicaid, Landes said. If the state chooses to expand Medicaid enrollment, as it can under Obamacare, the number of Virginians on Medicaid would soar from roughly 1 million of the state’s 8 million people, to about 1.4 million.
“There’s always a cost associated with providing any service, whether it’s partially funded by the federal government or not,” Landes said. “It has an impact on citizens because they pay for the services not only that they receive, but that others receive.”
Virginians also have to consider what will happen if the federal government doesn’t live up to its cost-sharing promises for expansion and leaves the state with an even bigger bill to pay, he added.
“If the federal government provides funds, that’s one thing,” Landes said. “If they don’t, then the states are saddled with that responsibility, there is going to be a direct impact on not only the services provided through Medicaid, but it can impact other services like education or public safety or other things the state is responsible for funding.”
In the end, federal funding and state funding still comes from the same place — taxpayers’ pockets.
— Kathryn Watson is an investigative reporter for Watchdog.org’s Virginia Bureau, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.