Bell Sounds from the 20th - 2018 Session - Week 7

It’s hard to believe but there are only two weeks left before the scheduled adjournment of the 2018 Session, known as “Sine Die”. Our last day is March 10th and there is still a lot of work to be done. This week we debated and voted on the House version of the budget.  A budget bill has passed in both chambers and will now be headed to conference where they will work to hammer out the significant differences in the two budgets.

The House Budget passed yesterday with a final vote of 68-32.  This budget bill includes a proposal to expand Medicaid in the Commonwealth.  While the proposal is represented as a healthcare reform compromise between the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and the Democratic Governor, make no mistake; this is still Medicaid expansion.

The costs of Virginia’s current Medicaid program are already out of control.  In the current biennium alone Virginia’s Medicaid costs grew by nearly $600 million and spending has grown by 7225% over the last 30 years.  This rate of growth is unsustainable.

The numbers for states that have already expanded are troubling. In expansion states, costs were on average 60% higher per-capita than projected. In Kentucky alone enrollment was more than double budgeted expectations and in Oregon the Democrat controlled legislature considered backing out of expansion to balance a $1.6 billion budget shortfall.

The federal government is $20 trillion in debt and that number is growing. I have serious concerns that they will not be able to maintain their 90% commitment. Despite claims to the contrary by supporters of this plan, the future of the program or the federal funding commitment is by no means a guarantee.  In fact, the future of the ACA could not be more uncertain.  Though they have been so far unable to repeal the ACA, the Trump Administration and Congress are actively discussing roll backs to Medicaid Expansion.  This in turn would mean that states that have already expanded would need to adjust their budgets to cover expansion.  This would be to the detriment of education, public safety, and other core functions of government.

I still believe that the expansion of Medicaid will not address the access issues for low-income Virginians, nor will it address the rising premiums for middle class families or the skyrocketing costs that businesses are facing to sponsor employee plans. The General Assembly has put forth several proposals that seek to address these underlying issues by filing legislation that allows insurance policies that match benefits with individual consumer needs, and that increases competition and transparency in the healthcare marketplace.

Voting against the House Budget was not a decision that I made lightly. There are many items in the budget that I would be glad to support.  I cannot in good conscience, however, support a budget that I believe will ultimately put funding for all our other core services at risk for years to come. I remain hopeful that the final version of the budget that comes out of the conference committee will be a proposal that responsibly invests in our core functions of government with targeted support for individuals most in need, without the fiscally irresponsible expansion of Medicaid.

Visitors

As Session begins to wind down we are seeing fewer visitors drop by. We were happy to see a group of dieticians and nutritionists from the district in the Capitol earlier this week.  I was also able to once again visit with David Blanchard and his daughter Mary Winters, as well as a group from Americare Plus.

It’s not too late to visit but we have just two weeks left! If you are going to be in the Richmond area, consider dropping by for a visit. While appointments are not required, we do recommend that you call or email us ahead of time to schedule a time for a visit.

While I make every attempt to see my constituents, please understand that my committee schedule can be very hectic and change very quickly. I appreciate your patience and understanding.

Contact Information

We are operating out of our Richmond Office for the duration of the 2018 Session. To reach us by phone call the Richmond office directly at 804-698-1020. We will still receive email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.

If you prefer to send us written correspondence, you can send mail to Post Office Box 406, Richmond, Virginia 23218.

You can also stay updated by following me on Twitter.

I look forward to hearing from you on the issues that matter most to you.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your delegate!

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