Virginia Republicans are flirting with going where the U.S. House Republicans have already disastrously gone: shutting down government over Obamacare, in this case Medicaid expansion. Gov. Terry McAulliffe has it in his budget, the Republican legislature is refusing to include it, and the issue has to be resolved by July 1. In refusing the expansion, Republicans risk alienating traditional supporters in the business community, as well as Virginia voters.
Hospitals, the state chamber of commerce and corporate leaders have been calling, writing, visiting and buttonholing, pushing what they call “the business case” for expanding coverage to thousands of uninsured under the health-care law, with the federal government promising to pay most of the cost. Gov. Terry McAuliffe and other Democrats who favor expansion have been betting on that pressure to sway Republicans, particularly in rural areas where hospitals are often the largest employer and are eager for the financial girding that the coverage expansion would provide. […]At this point, it's not clear whether this rift with the business community is enough to override other areas where they're on board with the Republicans. But that could change if Republican intransigence does end up leading to a stalemate on the budget, and the state government shuts down.
“This has been the number one unifier,” said Pete Snyder, a Northern Virginia entrepreneur and Republican activist who sought the nomination for lieutenant governor last year. “You think just a year ago it [the House] was rife with strife over the tax increases. And now you have a House solidly aligned against the expansion of Obamacare and Medicaid expansion.”
The strategy carries potential financial risk for Republicans. The Virginia GOP staggered out of the fall elections with less than $70,000 on hand. Some of the business groups and corporate leaders pushing for a version of Medicaid expansion are among the GOP’s most reliable donors, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan tracker of money in politics.
State Republicans—like the national GOP—are counting on Obamacare being the issue that takes them to victory in November, convinced that it will keep the base motivated. At the same time, though, Medicaid expansion is polling well in the state. Recent PPP polling has the expansion up 49-43 in the state, and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) leading challenger Ed Gillespie on the issue.
They're also risking the bad press that's going to come with the human cost of not expanding Medicaid. There are 400,000 people in the Medicaid gap in the state, making too much to be eligible for traditional Medicaid and not enough to be able to get subsidies to buy private insurance on the exchange. That's an awful lot of people in the life and death situation of having no health care.