A legislator from a rural district in Virginia on Thursday became the first Republican in the state to explicitly call for Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare.
The support of Del. Terry Kilgore (R), chairman of the House Commerce and Labor Committee, boosts the chances that Virginia could become the latest state to accept federal money to expand Medicaid coverage.
Kilgore first announced his support in an op-ed in The Roanoke Times and on the John Fredericks radio show.
Kilgore, who represents a coal-country district in southwest Virginia, expressed support for expanding Medicaid coverage as long as the state adopts work requirements for “able-bodied” adults, similar to what the Trump administration approved in Kentucky and Indiana.
“As Governor [Ralph] Northam seeks a solution to provide greater health care access to Virginians, I propose Virginia learn from what Kentucky has done and what the Trump administration supports,” Kilgore wrote.
“This model is a path forward, and one we can support,” he added.
Kilgore indicated he is not the only Republican who supports the expansion.
"I'm not that far out on a limb,” he told Fredericks. “We have to step up; we can't be the party of 'no.'”
The Trump administration recently announced that it will approve state proposals requiring “able-bodied adults” on Medicaid to work, study or perform some kind of community service.
Indiana and Kentucky have so far been the only states to get federal approval for work requirements, but at least eight other states have applied.
ObamaCare gave states the option to expand Medicaid coverage, with the federal government picking up almost all of the cost of covering the expanded population.
The federal government covered 100 percent of the costs if a state expanded between 2014 and 2016. By 2020, states will pay 10 percent of the costs.
To date, 32 states and Washington, D.C., have expanded Medicaid.
Democrats nearly won the Virginia House in November, and Republicans hold only a two-seat advantage. However, it’s unclear if the state Senate will support expansion. State Republicans have been blocking attempts to expand Medicaid for years, arguing that it is unaffordable.
Medicaid expansion is one of Northam’s top priorities, but the Democratic governor has not indicated if he will support work requirements.
In a statement, a Northam spokeswoman said, “Governor Northam thanks Delegate Kilgore for sharing his ideas about how to expand health coverage for Virginians who need it. He is encouraged by discussions with members of both parties on this important issue and believes we can reach an agreement that works for everyone.”