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Dems, Republicans debate McDonnell delay on health exchange

Political leaders on both sides of the aisle are lobbying Gov. Bob McDonnell on what he should do regarding setting up a state-run health exchange and expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

“Funding such a significant expansion of Medicaid would place tremendous fiscal pressure on the Commonwealth and divert funds from other state programs, such as public education, higher education, public safety, natural resource protection and even other critically important health care programs,” Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling wrote in a letter to McDonnell urging his fellow Republican to move in the direction of taking no action.

State Del. David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, the House Democratic Leader, said the “wait and see” approach that McDonnell is taking is making a complicated issue unnecessarily more so.

“It is time for leadership, to quit posturing, to use our share of federal money, and to send a Virginia plan to the Obama administration – an exchange proposal that meets our needs, and makes the right decisions for Virginia even if every federal regulation is not yet clear,” Toscano said.

The Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010, authorizes states to use federal funds to prepare for and establish a state health-care exchange by January 2014. To get the planning and implementation money, a state must apply for the resources.

McDonnell sent a letter to state legislators on Tuesday indicating that he feels he needs more information before deciding which direction to take.

“With multiple unanswered questions and great uncertainty, it is not prudent to spend a great deal of time and taxpayers’ money on building a system that we may never need to implement or that may be materially different once the rules are finally established,’’ McDonnell said in the letter.

His Democratic critics note his alliance with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who is reportedly considering McDonnell as a possible running mate. Romney has himself had to deal with questions about a state law that he signed as governor of Massachusetts that set up a health-care system that served as a model for the federal plan now termed ObamaCare by Republicans.

“Inexplicably, Gov. McDonnell has not clarified why a market-based program modeled on the success of Gov. Romney’s breakthrough health care law in Massachusetts should be repealed, especially since over 98 percent of Massachusetts citizens now have health care insurance,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mark Sickles.

Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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Augusta Free Press