NEWPORT NEWS -- One of the most hotly-contested issues of the 2014 General Assembly session was expanding Medicaid.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) wants it; Richmond lawmakers won't approve it.
According to a poll released Thursday by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, most Virginia voters oppose Medicaid expansion but want lawmakers to find a compromise.
Download the poll results here
McAuliffe says the state can't afford to lose $2.1 billion a year in federal funds by not expanding the program under the federal Affordable Care Act. At a speech to the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce on April 1, he warned Virginia could lose as much as $20 million in taxes over the next eight years.
Republicans have rejected overtures to expand Medicaid, saying it needs reform.
Virginians say 53% to 41% that they oppose Medicaid expansion, according to the poll, but they think lawmakers should reach a deal, especially if it will stop a government shutdown in July.
"Democrats are losing the debate on expanding Medicaid in Virginia,” said Dr. Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center for Public Policy. “This is mostly because they are not convincing Independents that it’s a good idea. But even in the usually friendly territory of Northern Virginia, the debate is not going their way.”
Last month, McAuliffe announced the launch of Commonwealth Coordinated Care, a pilot project to streamline benefits for 78,000 Virginians already eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.
State figures show expanding Medicaid would give an estimated 400,000 uninsured Virginians health care coverage.
Former governor Bob McDonnell said last year that the state couldn't afford it unless major reforms are made to Medicaid first. He told 13News Now in February 2013 that Medicaid spending in the Commonwealth had increased 1600 percent in the last 30 years.
The current state budget expires July 1. The budget wasn't discussed in Wednesday's veto session in Richmond.
The Wason Center survey also shows that if the legislature’s failure to pass a budget leads to a shutdown of state government, 73% of voters want Gov. McAuliffe to use executive orders to keep essential functions running.
The poll surveyed 806 registered Virginia voters April 16-22, 2014. The overall margin of error is +/- 3.5%.