In a move that perhaps fits with his vision of being a new and liberated voice, Lt. Gov. Bolling has issued a press release in which he urges the General Assembly to accept the inevitable and expand Medicaid:
When the Supreme Court first gave states the ability to opt out of Medicaid expansion, I expressed my belief that the Commonwealth should not move forward with expansion until two conditions were met. First, we had to make certain that Virginia could afford its share of the costs of the proposed expansion; and second, we wanted to achieve fundamental reforms in the way Medicaid operates to make the program more effective and efficient. That remains my position. However, in recent months we have developed a more complete picture of the overall business case for Medicaid reform and expansion, and I believe the mounting evidence supports moving forward with expansion, subject to our ability to obtain acceptable waivers from the federal government to implement critical Medicaid reforms.”
The entire letter Bolling sent to the legislative leadership can be found here. It’s rather interesting reading, particularly when compared with the concerns Gov. McDonnell voiced back in July, when he asked the Obama administration a series of questions regarding how Medicaid expansion would work and how it would be paid for:
Mr. McDonnell characterized the growth of Medicaid in the state’s budget as “an unsustainable trajectory that demands improvement and greater efficiency.” Medicaid spending has grown 1,600 percent over the past three decades, and the program now comprises about one-fifth of the state budget.
A 2010 estimate showed that the Medicaid expansion would cost Virginia $2.2 billion starting in 2014, but Mr. McDonnell wrote that the Department of Medical Assistance Services is currently updating that projection.
Mr. Bolling, it would seem, believes those costs can be covered if the state is able to wrangle a deal with Washington. Good luck with that. He also believes that since Virginians will be forced to pay the taxes that underwrite Medicaid’s expansion, failing to get our share isn’t prudent:
“If we do not move forward with the proposed expansion of coverage Virginians will still be required to pay these taxes and fees, but they will receive no benefits from the program. That hardly seems wise or fair.”
What’s neither wise nor fair is expanding a program that is not only bankrupt, but threatens Virginia’s, and the nation’s, solvency.
A couple of months ago, such a policy position would have left me speechless. Now I just have to shake my head and laugh.