We are nearing the end of the 2013 General Assembly session and working overtime to reach agreements on several major initiatives including a plan to reduce traffic congestion in the Commonwealth. The last two weeks at the General Assembly are especially busy as I work with both my fellow Delegates and State Senators to ensure final passage of my legislation.
Medicaid – A Reform First Approach Needed
As we near the end of session, the future of Medicaid has emerged as one of the bigger issues facing the General Assembly. Medicaid is an important program that provides quality health care to low-income individuals – often single parents and their children – at little or no cost. For hundreds of thousands of Virginians, it is the only way to receive needed medical care.
Last year, Virginians spent $7 billion on Medicaid. Medicaid expansion could add over 250,000 new enrollees, further driving up costs if we do not implement reforms. Reforms will allow us to lower costs and dedicate those savings toward providing better care for current and new enrollees.
Our House Budget directs the Department of Medical Assistance to seek authority for reforms from the federal government. After those reforms are implemented, DMAS may ask the General Assembly for final authority to expand Medicaid.
Most agree that the Medicaid system is in desperate need of reform. Medicaid is the fastest growing program in the state budget and costs are spiraling out of control. Additionally, federal regulations dictate rigid and inflexible coverage policies that further drive up costs. In 2010, JLARC, the legislature’s watchdog committee, confirmed this fact when they found that nearly $90 million of our taxpayer dollars are wasted due to fraud, abuse, and error.
If we were able to get a waiver from the federal government, we would have the flexibility to implement much-needed cost saving reforms. These savings could then be used for the purpose of Medicaid expansion.
Some have called for a “dual track” approach- expanding Medicaid and enacting much-needed reforms at the same time. Those calling for the “dual-track” approach also claim that the expansion would mostly be covered by federal funding. Given the current state of the federal government’s finances makes, I am skeptical of the federal government’s ability to make good on its promise for funding.
If we expand Medicaid without enacting cost-saving reforms, Virginia taxpayers could be stuck with a big bill. Even worse, Virginia could be stuck an ineffective and out-of-control program and no authority or resources to fix it. That is why reforms must come first.
Simply put, Medicaid is too important of a program and there is too much at stake not to make needed reforms as we consider expansion. I want to reform Medicaid because I know hundreds of thousands of people rely on it. The more efficiently and effectively it runs, the stronger our health care safety net will be.
Reform first is the right approach to Medicaid expansion in the Commonwealth. Reforming Medicaid is not only the responsible thing to do, but it provides a pathway to Medicaid expansion that all Virginians can agree on.
Moving Forward on Transportation
On the important topic of transportation, I can report that we did make progress this week on reaching an agreement to help reduce the traffic congestion in our Commonwealth. On Wednesday, the State Senate passed their version of a transportation plan, which allowed for the House of Delegates to put the bill into a conference committee. I have been selected to be on this conference committee, and I will be working with the other members over the next few days to come up with a transportation plan that members of both chambers can agree upon.
I will be sure to update you on the details of the final transportation plan as soon as we establish them.
Status of my Bills
HB 1433: Infants; cause of action for expenses for injury, statute of limitations.
Passed the Senate on February 13, 2013.
HB 1777: Deadman’s Statute; corroboration of testimony by business records, authentication of records.
Passed the Senate on February 13, 2013.
HB1587: ABC; contemplated actions by brewery or beer wholesaler.
Approved by the Governor on February 15, 2013.
You can track the status of all the bills presented here in the General Assembly at http://lis.virginia.gov.
As always, my staff and I are here in Richmond to serve you. We want to hear what you think about the legislation pending before the House, or if there’s anything we can do to help you in dealing with a state government agency. My office can be reached at (804) 698-1042 or via email at delDAlbo@house.virginia.gov. You can also fill out my legislative survey here. If you are planning to visit Richmond during Session, I encourage you to visit me in General Assembly building room 529.