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Rep. Danica Roem (D-Prince William) sits with supporters of Medicaid expansion during Wednesday’s vote. Steve Helber/AP
Rep. Danica Roem (D-Prince William) sits with supporters of Medicaid expansion during Wednesday’s vote. Steve Helber/AP

Virginia expands Medicaid, joins the resistance

The expansion of Medicaid in Virginia is a sign that Republicans can do the right thing when their interests are involved.

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A fundamental consequence of elections is the desperation of those who feel the battle is lost; political parties and individuals often break ranks, redesign scenarios and, in the case of Republicans, even approve budgets in favor of Medicaid.

That was exactly what conservatives did in Virginia last week when, seeing themselves suffer massive losses during the legislative primaries, they decided to break ranks with Washington’s guidelines and approve the expansion of medical coverage to around 400,000 citizens.

The decision was prompted by the imminence of midterm elections in a state where the GOP's obstructionism "ironically" prevented the most heavily Republican counties from accessing basic health insurance for more than four years, the Washington Post explained. This includes rural areas in the south of the state where, in many cases, "up to 20 percent of adults under 65" are unprotected.

"Under the state’s existing guidelines, which are among the nation’s least generous, working parents can’t collect Medicaid if they earn more than about $5,700 a year, and adults without children are ineligible even if they have no income at all,” the Post explained. "Under the new legislation, which Governor Ralph Northam (D) says he will sign, Virginia can raise its income limits for eligibility to $16,750 for an adult, and $28,700 for a family of three. The current cutoff for a family of three is $6,900."

The massive loss of votes by Republicans was caused, precisely, by the priority that voters gave to health care, a flag that was widely flown by Democrats.

"The turning point came in April when State Senator Frank Wagner, a Republican from Virginia Beach, said he had changed his position and would support Medicaid expansion, joining one other Republican, Senator Emmett W. Hanger Jr. of Augusta, and all 19 Senate Democrats," according to the New York Times. "Mr. Wagner changed his mind after a work requirement was added to the plan" and Senators Ben Chafin and Jill Holtzman Vogel joined the proposal.

Despite the Trump Administration's steadfast campaign to wipe out any traces of so-called Obamacare, the bill introduced in the Virginia House of Representatives was approved in a matter of hours, and now it merely awaits the governor's signature.

As of now, 33 states have taken steps to expand medical coverage to their citizens after Maine took the lead last fall.

In Utah, for example, activists in favor of the measure managed to obtain enough signatures to "put the initiative on the ballot for November," which could expand coverage to more than 100,000 people, Market Watch explained.

Likewise, simultaneous campaigns have emerged in Idaho and Nebraska, in what many interpret as a fundamental counterattack in the Trump era.

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