RICHMOND, Virginia — To try to show that opposition to expanding Medicaid isn't confined to a handful of powerful Republican delegates, GOP leaders of the Virginia House announced Wednesday that they are planning a full floor vote on a Senate proposal.
The vote is set for Thursday. The GOP-controlled House is likely to reject the Senate's plan, which would accept additional federal Medicaid funds in order to provide health insurance to low-income residents who are currently without coverage.
"There's many who say it's just the leadership, so we wanted everyone to see where the House stands," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Chris Jones.
Expanding Medicaid eligibility to about 400,000 low-income Virginians has been the central debate during the 2014 legislative session. House Republicans argue that Virginia's current Medicaid program is growing too quickly and needs reforms before adding more people. They also argue that the federal government's promises to cover no less than 90 percent of costs associated with expanded coverage can't be trusted.
Democrats, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and a few Republican senators have argued that Virginia's economy, in particular its hospitals, can't afford to pass up $5 million a day in federal funds. At a news conference Wednesday, supporters of expansion said that the state's rejection of additional Medicaid funding has already cost Virginia $250 million so far this year.
The new federal health care law intended for states to expand Medicaid coverage to a broader segment of uninsured low-income individuals, a provision the Supreme Court ruled was optional.
Neither side has so far shown any willingness to back down. Thursday's planned vote is part of an effort by House Republicans to reinforce their position ahead of budget negotiations with the Democratically controlled Senate.
But House Minority Leader David Toscano said the Republican caucus is not has unified as the planned floor vote will likely suggest.
"If they let their caucus vote their interests then we'd get a lot of votes," said Toscano.