Wise County

Gov. McAuliffe pushes for Medicaid expansion during Wise Co. visit

WISE COUNTY, Va. - Virginia's governor spent the day in our region on Tuesday, his focus, and Medicaid expansion.

It has been a hot topic in both Virginia and Tennessee.

Governor Terry McAuliffe made several stops in Wise County, Virginia Tuesday to discuss why he's pushing for the expansion.

Death by a thousand cuts is how Mountain State Health Alliance describes the health care system right now and Wellmont CEO Denny Denarvaez agrees, "Telling them we think things might get better in a year that doesn't cut it with a new physician or a new graduate nurse or an experienced ICU nurse."

Denarvaez says as a result of the uncertainty of health care they closed the Lee Regional Medical Center in Pennington Gap last fall, "We have had to restrain ourselves from hires and basically load onto the people that are there."

Mountain States echoes the same concerns, "If we don't close this coverage gap and bring these billions of dollars back home into Southwest Virginia their hospitals are not imperiled," says Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.

McAuliffe says the Medicaid expansion would help give around 400,000 low income residents health insurance and could save Virginia around $1 billion, "Why would we not bring that money back to Virginia roll through our economy create 30,000 new jobs and provide health care up to 400,00 Virginians."

The new federal law would reimburse states that expand Medicaid eligibility for lower income residents.

In February the Republican controlled house voted against expanding Medicaid eligibility and have suggested Medicaid reform is needed first, "They've asked for another audit I think we've had 63 audits it's just a stall tactic at this point these 400,000 Virginians have waited long enough," adds McAuliffe.

Another concern some Republicans have when the federal money runs out in three years what will the state do?

McAuliffe tells us that isn't a concern, "What I've said for the first 3 years when it's 100% paid for by the federal government let's take it lets do the legislation and try it for three years so we're not at any risks."

Both Wellmont and Mountain States agree something needs to be done quickly.

In February the Democratically controlled Senate voted to expand the coverage.

Governor McAuliffe says so far 27 states have expanded Medicaid coverage or are planning to.

The governor wants to have a budget in place by July 1st and hopes to close the coverage gap by then.

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