PORTSMOUTH -- Hospitals will close, patients will die, and Virginia taxpayers will lose $2billion a year. That's the dire forecast from Governor Terry McAuliffe, if the General Assembly fails to approve Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
McAuliffe took that message on the road today, two days after the General Assembly adjourned without approving a two year, $96 billion budget, and, without taking action on Medicaid.
McAuliffe appeared Monday before a group of expansion supporters, at Bon Scours Maryview Hospital in Portsmouth. There, McAuliffe said by expanding Virginia's Medicaid rolls, 400,000 currently uninsured state residents would be covered, as would 21,000 military veterans.
McAuliffe expressed optimism that having lawmakers leave Richmond, and returning to their home districts, will convince opponents that Medicaid expansion is the right thing to do.
"I'm hoping once everybody goes home for a couple of weeks and they meet their constituents and talk to folks, they're going to realize how important this issue is," he said.
General Assembly Republicans were nearly unanimously opposed to expansion, arguing, among other things, that the federal government cannot be trusted to pay its fair share. Chesapeake Delegate John Cosgrove all but declared the idea dead on arrival. "No, it's no going to happen," he said. "I just cannot see that happening."
The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce has pushed for expansion. Executive Vice President Ira Agricola attended the Maryview session with McAuliffe. After it was over he said he, too, hopes opponents change their minds. "Perhaps a two week cooling off period is important for the General Assembly to come hear from their constituents who make clear their positions on this very important issue," he said.
A special session of the general assembly has been called to begin onMarch 24th. The governor's office has said it could last three weeks.