Del. Kilgore changes position on Medicaid; House Republicans push for reform and expansion

The Virginia House has revealed a budget that includes Medicaid expansion. (WCYB)

Delegate Terry Kilgore (R - Gate City) has changed positions and is now leading the push to expand and reform Medicaid in Virginia. House Republicans added Medicaid expansion to the budget Sunday.

For years, Republicans have fought against Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care act. Since Republicans in Washington have failed to repeal Obamacare though, Kilgore said it’s time to stop saying "no" and do something.

"It's here to stay,” Kilgore said. “We have to, in Virginia, move forward with our Virginia plans."

His plan to expand Medicaid to nearly 300,000 low income people in Virginia would also require Medicaid users to have jobs, mimicking Kentucky’s expansion model.

"You have to either have a job, 40 hours a week, be in a training program, or do some community service," Kilgore said.

Kilgore said people with disabilities or who are unable to work would not be affected by the requirements. The expansion also would not require higher taxes. Currently, Virginia taxpayers already pay for Medicaid expansion, but the money is sent to other states.

"This is a way that we're getting our own tax dollars back that have already been paid in,” Bristol Chamber of Commerce President Beth Rhinehart said. “That would otherwise go somewhere else."

Rhinehart said increasing healthcare access would help save business owners money.

"You have businesses who probably their greatest cost is loss of productivity and profitability, and a lot of that's due to having unhealthy workers," Rhinehart added.

While the Virginia house has included expansion in the budget, Senate republicans have expressed opposition.

"There's some misinformation out there,” Kilgore said. “I think there are a lot of Senators that are in the process of re-evaluating this."

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