Virginia: Gov. Northam hits 'pause' on Medicaid work requirements

Coming on top of not one, not two, but three other states either scrapping or "delaying" implementation of Medicaid expansion work requirements (Arizona, Indiana and Montana), this one isn't particularly surprising given that Democrats hold the governor's seat and just flipped both the state House and Senate. Still welcome, though!

Gov. Ralph Northam has directed Virginia's Medicaid program to "pause" negotiations with the federal government on approval of a work requirement that was central to a political deal that allowed the state to expand eligibility for the program's health care benefits to hundreds of thousands of uninsured Virginians.

Northam cited the Democratic takeover of both chambers of the General Assembly in legislative elections last month. He also referred to litigation that has faced other states that have tried to link Medicaid health benefits to requirements that program participants seek work, training, education or other forms of civic engagement.

"Virginians made clear they want more access to health care, not less," he said in a statement on Wednesday. "Given the changed makeup of the General Assembly and based on conversations with new leadership, it is unlikely Virginia will move forward with funding a program that could cause tens of thousands of Virginians to lose health care coverage."

Needless to say, Virginia Republicans are pretty steamed about this, but it's not exactly a shocking development. Northam has been pretty open about putting the kibosh on Medicaid work requirements, and the main GOP architect of the budget agreement which baked work requirements in was among those defeated in November's blue mini-wave.

A couple of interesting data updates/tidbits are included near the end of the story:

Virginia has added more than 342,000 people to its Medicaid program under expanded eligibility guidelines in the Affordable Care Act, which commits the federal government to paying 90% of the cost.

Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dan Carey estimated this fall that the proposed work requirement would apply to more than 65,000 people in the program, and about 14,000 would lose their health coverage without adequate state support to comply with the proposal.

The estimate of the total number of Virginians eligible for ACA Medicaid expansion is around 400,000, so they've added around 85% of the total eligible so far. My guess is they'll hit the 400K total within the next month or two.