RICHMOND, Va. (WVEC) -- With Democrats making big gains in the House of Delegates, and physician Ralph Northam winning the governorship, proponents of Medicaid expansion hope that this could be the year in Virginia.
But Republican lawmakers who still hold slim majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly have defeated the idea for the last four years.
Six Virginia Chambers of Commerce, including the Hampton Roads Chamber, have said they favor the state recovering federal funding available through the Affordable Care Act to help as many as 400,000 uninsured Virginians get health coverage.
A CNU-Wason Center poll last September of likely voters supported expansion by a margin of 51 percent to 42 percent.
Many Republican lawmakers say, expansion in and of itself, is not wise.
"I will not sit there and take money out of some taxpayers' pocket, pay, while someone is perfectly capable of working doesn't want to work, and give them free health care while everyone else is busting their chops to get it," said Sen. Frank Wagner.
"And anytime we take more and more money out of that general fund, let's say for Medicaid expansion, that's less money for education, law enforcement , all the things that general fund have to pay," said Sen John Cosgrove. "The other thing is, there's no guarantee that federal money is always going to be there."
Still, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and his fellow Democrats in the General Assembly keep pushing for the idea.
"They've all done it, thirty-two states," said Sen Lynwood Lewis. "Virginia needs to do it. It's good economic sense. It's good fiscal sense, and it's good for our people."
"The people say, forget about your party, Spruill, what are you all doing for Medicaid to help the folks out and for your city and your hospital," said Sen Lionell Spruull. "Stop playing games."
SpruulI's believed, despite last week's Senate committee defeats Medicaid expansion could still make a comeback during the budget process in the House of Delegates.