(Story updated at 7 p.m. ET)
Terry McAuliffe, Virginia's Democratic governor, has given up on his attempt to expand Medicaid on his own without the support of the GOP-led General Assembly. Instead, he is introducing program improvements for those currently enrolled through an executive order and a series of emergency regulations.
He also plans an aggressive outreach campaign to reach those already eligible for Medicaid who have not enrolled while spreading the word about premium subsidies available to others through the federal exchange. Other initiatives the governor plans to launch in the coming months include integrating primary and specialty care for as many as 20,000 uninsured residents with serious mental illness via a CMS waiver.
He also plans to allow the children of low income state employees to join the state's Virginia Family Access to Medical Insurance Security (FAMIS), the state's Children Insurance Program (CHIP) and extend dental benefits to all pregnant women in Medicaid and FAMIS.
“The governor has made some significant progress for people in Virginia that is very much welcomed,” said Ron Pollack, CEO of the national consumer advocacy organization and healthcare reform ally Families USA.
“Improving access to mental health services and dental care are very important,” Pollack said. But, he added, “This still lives a big problem as hundreds of thousands of low income people are in the coverage gap, this means the focus now is on state legislators.”
McAuliffe put up a tough fight to expand Medicaid for an additional 400,000 Virginians making between 100% and 138% of federal poverty level, at one point even holding up the state's budget in hopes that GOP lawmakers would cave in.