Senate Republicans block Warner attempt to pass Medicaid expansion measure

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U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) was rebuffed by Senate Republicans Wednesday in his effort to secure immediate passage of the States Achieve Medicaid Expansion (SAME) Act to allow states – including Virginia – to further benefit from expanding Medicaid, and to further incentivize states who have not yet expanded to do so.

“I can think of no better time to pass this legislation than right now, when more than 5 million Americans find themselves having lost their health care coverage in the last three months alone. In fact, some reports actually estimate that nearly 27 million Americans have lost their employer-sponsored health insurance and are now in jeopardy of becoming uninsured,” Sen. Warner said. “Estimates show that if every state were to expand its Medicaid program, about 3 million additional Americans would have health care coverage. This is not a political argument nor a philosophical exercise – this legislation has a real-world impact and it’s clear that Americans want and need this legislation to pass.”

The SAME Act would allow states like Virginia that expanded Medicaid after 2014 to receive the same full federal matching funds as states that expanded earlier under the terms of the Affordable Care Act.

Under this legislation, the 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid would also be eligible for increased federal funds once they choose to expand the program.

The Affordable Care Act provides financial support to states that have expanded their existing Medicaid programs to provide healthcare coverage to all individuals up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The federal government covers the full cost of expansion for three years, phasing down to a 90 percent match rate for the sixth year of the expansion and in subsequent years.

Currently, states choosing to expand coverage after 2014 do not receive the same federal matching rates as those that expanded immediately. This is due to the Supreme Court’s holding in National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) v. Sebelius, which made expansion optional for states, despite intentions to make Medicaid expansion national in 2014.

The SAME Act would ensure that any states that expand Medicaid receive an equal level of federal funding for the expansion, regardless of when they chose to expand.

In his remarks, Sen. Warner noted the $14,000 median cost of a COVID-19-related hospitalization and stressed this cost could mean bankruptcy for the 30 million Americans without health insurance.

“I know my colleagues on the other side of the aisle want to do right by their constituents and the millions of Americans that need help. So today, I ask you to come together to support the SAME Act,” Sen. Warner said. “No one should go bankrupt because they got sick and sought medical care. But more importantly, no one should go bankrupt when this legislative body has the opportunity to act. Let’s do the right thing here – put politics aside and pass this commonsense legislation.”

         
 

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