By Zaid Jilani
The Intercept (12/23/17)
DEMOCRATS IN VIRGINIA and around the country rebuked Virginia Gov.-elect Ralph Northam for softening on a campaign promise to push for Medicaid expansion in a recent interview with the Washington Post. Newly elected state Delegate Lee Carter, a Democratic Socialist, says enough is enough, warning that Northam may be alienating the Democrats who put him in office.
Northam told the Washington Post last weekend that he will not try to force a vote on expanding Medicaid — an issue that was central to his campaign — in the legislature. Responding to criticisms, the governor-elect’s spokesperson told the Washington Post that Northam still wants to expand the program. Northam also renewed his commitment to Medicaid expansion on social media following the outcry.
Still, it remains unclear whether Northam will ask the legislature for a straight up or down vote on the measure or instead try to work out a compromise that may include reforms that could actually reduce Medicaid eligibility for some people.
Northam will enter office in January with a slate of newly elected Democrats, including Carter — a 30-year-old marine veteran who toppled the Republican House whip in the November election.
“Something has got to change on health care. It’s got to change in a dramatic matter. And if we don’t deliver on that, in two years there’s gonna be hell to pay.” – Lee Carter
“It’s important to recognize that there are 750,000 Virginians with no health insurance whatsoever. So when we’re talking about the Medicaid expansion — there’s 370,000 people who are eligible under the federal rules,” Carter said in an interview with The Intercept. “So a clean Medicaid expansion only covers half of those people. A clean Medicaid expansion is the compromise. That’s where I’m coming from, that’s what I hope he’d be advocating for. I don’t think his comments were indicative of that.”
Carter himself has not had health insurance for nearly a year, as purchasing coverage through the health care marketplace can be cost-prohibitive. He thought about how that might change on the night he won his election, reportedly telling his wife, “You know what I won? Health insurance.”
Virginia is one of a handful of states that has yet to utilize the Affordable Care Act’s provision to expand Medicaid access. Republicans in the state legislature have been blocking the move, but the Democratic wave in November makes the body nearly evenly split. Northam would only have to swing a handful of Republicans in order to fully expand the program.
As a candidate, Northam made expanding Medicaid a cornerstone of his bid for governor. He highlighted that promise in campaign commercials aired throughout the state, a fact that was not lost on his supporters.
But he wavered on that promise in his recent interview with the Washington Post. …
(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2017. Open source and free to use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )