The 2013 General Assembly of the Legislature came to a close on February 23. This year was the short session, consisting of some 46 days at the Capital. The shorter legislative session did not stop the onslaught of thousands of introduced bills. Not being a budget year, we were merely tasked with making amendments to the existing document. Of course, there were hundreds of requests – most went unmet. Here are a few highlights of the General Assembly that will become law soon.
Virginia ranks 48th in per capita Medicaid spending. We have one of the highest income thresholds in the nation for eligibility. The passage of the Affordable Healthcare Act in 2010 was to open Medicaid programs to people with incomes up to 138% of the national poverty level. The federal government would pay the entire cost for three years of healthcare insurance and then reduce payment to around 90%. For the Commonwealth that amounts to about $2B annually – money paid by Virginians through their federal taxes.
Governor McDonnell lead the opposition to this and worked diligently to defeat any bi-partisan efforts to recoup Virginia tax dollars, which would apply to providing access for healthcare outside the emergency room treatment which is commonplace for indigent patients. Those of us that have healthcare insurance often see a significant rise in annual premiums to cover the least cost effective care of an emergency room visit for the poorest of patients. Aside from providing coverage to an additional 400,000 Virginians, it is estimated some 30,000 new jobs would be created in health-care related fields. This should have been a logical next step, but it was not. This issue was one of the most intensely debated during the General Assembly and still remains in limbo on the Governor’s desk.