When Virginia’s 2014 General Assembly regular session ended just over a week ago, Republicans and Democrats hadn’t come to agreement on the budget. The disagreement? Whether or not Virginia will expand Medicaid, brought about by passage of Obamacare. 

Little attention has been given by state Democrats to the massive drain on state resources Medicaid continues to be and the program’s huge growth over the past thirty years. In Virginia, Medicaid expenditures account for roughly one fourth of the state budget, even with a federal match that exceeds 70 percent in some cases. Between 1984 and this year, total funds budgeted for Virginia’s Medicaid program grew from $455 million to $8.1 billion, a 1,700 percent increase over three decades. Adjusted for inflation, that increase is still roughly 700% in growth. Cost per recipient has also risen. In 1980 the cost per enrollee was $1,617. Today it is about $6,500, a 6 percent increase per year.

This dramatic and unsustainable growth crowds out funding for transportation, education, and public safety. Government employees certainly should be hesitant to blindly support expansion if they’re concerned about future pay raises or increased spending for their chunk of the budget pie. 

Fortunately, most state Republicans have rightfully rejected the idea of expanding Medicaid services without a state audit and comprehensive examination of the amount of taxpayer dollars being spent on waste, fraud, and abuse. Unfortunately, Governor Terry McAuliffe is prepared to shut the government down, without any sort of reform to the state Medicaid program. 

And if Democrats continue to refuse a “clean budget,” this will be the result:

“Teachers and police would not get paid, the Virginia Department of Transportation would shut down, and state employees would be laid off.The state has endured budget stalemates before, most recently two years ago when legislators needed more than a month of overtime to break a logjam. But a full-on shutdown would be unprecedented.” – Virginian-Pilot, February 21, 2014

Virginia’s government employees concerned about their July paychecks can email Governor McAuliffe here. Concerned taxpayers should do the same. 

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