Northam talks next steps of Medicaid expansion with Va lawmakers in DC

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Radical reform is coming to Virginia’s health care system next year. Our Washington Correspondent Alana Austin has more on what needs to happen today in the nation’s capitol to make Democrats’ long-awaited dream a reality.

Driven to guarantee 400,000 more Virginians access to nearly-free government health care next year, Governor Ralph Northam took to Capitol Hill Thursday.

“We’re trying to do everything that we can to improve the lives of all Virginians," said Gov. Ralph Northam.

“As a physician I am very excited for today.”

The new coverage is set to take effect in January, after state lawmakers voted to expand Medicaid – the federal government’s health care program for the poor. But first, Virginia needs the federal government to sign off on proposed work requirements.

Northam met with Old Dominion lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, hoping to get them to grease the wheels with the Trump administration.

“Contrary to what folks hear out there, we do work together on both sides of the aisle and especially when it’s in the best interest of Virginians," said Northam.

This issue is politically-polarizing nationally and locally. GOP lawmakers at the state level opposed the expansion for years – concerned the small percentage of the cost absorbed by Virginia would break the bank. But with power nearly evenly split now in Richmond – a handful of Republicans helped Democrats vote the change through.

“When I hear people only talk about the pennies and they don’t talk about the people, it makes me mad," said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).

Kaine committed to helping make the expansion a reality, arguing it will help many caught in the deadly grip of the opioid epidemic.

We reached out Rep. Goodlatte to get his thoughts on Thursday’s meeting. In a statement he thanked the Governor for his time but did not address the issue of Medicaid.

If Virginia gets the approval it needs, it will become the 33rd state to expand Medicaid coverage.

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