Virginia's governor-elect angers Democrats by saying he won't push for Medicaid expansion

A lesson for Democrats: Don't think about not expanding Medicaid

By Jeremy Binckes

Published December 17, 2017 3:01PM (EST)

Ralph Northam (Getty/Alex Wong)
Ralph Northam (Getty/Alex Wong)

Virginia's newly elected governor, Ralph Northam, hasn't even been sworn into office, and he's already angering the Democratic base that rallied to elect him last month.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Northam said that he would make it a priority to work with Republicans, which shouldn't ruffle any feathers. But liberals aren't pleased with how Northam said he'd work across the aisle.

Similarly, Northam said he has no plans to try to force Republicans to accept a broad expansion of Medicaid. Instead, he has begun talks with lawmakers in both parties about overhauling the state’s Medicaid system to expand access to health care while better defining eligibility to control costs.

He also said that he wants to get recipients "back on the workforce [through] training," hinting that he may be pushing for a welfare-to-work program that has been popular for Democrats over the past 20 years.

The bipartisanship wouldn't need to be fully necessary. Instead of keeping the legislature as is, with Republicans holding a slight majority, Northam could appoint Republicans to his administration, creating the possibility that Democrats could re-take the House of Delegates, especially if the Republicans came from close districts this year.

Northam positioned himself on the campaign trail as the candidate who would expand Medicaid — the program that provides health insurance to residents who can't afford to pay for their own health insurance — in the commonwealth.

"Virginia must act urgently to expand Medicaid now that there is bipartisan agreement that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land," the Northam campaign said in a press release in March.

The cautious approach — and willingness to go against a campaign promise — didn't set well among progressives, who demanded a change of course.

Northam took to Twitter Sunday afternoon to assure Virginians that he would still be pushing for Medicaid expansion in the state.

Jeremy Binckes

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