Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has cited Donald Trump’s new running mate as an example of a conservative Republican governor who found a way to expand Medicaid.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, whom the presumptive GOP presidential nominee will introduce today as his choice for vice president, long has advocated repeal of the Affordable Care Act. But in January 2015, his state received federal approval for its own version of Medicaid expansion.
Indiana’s plan, which features health savings accounts, seeks to promote personal responsibility by requiring low-income people to contribute to the cost of their care.
“We became the first state in America to reform traditional Medicaid for all able-bodied adults with the launch of the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0,” Pence said in January in his State of the State address.
McAuliffe, a close friend of Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has sought without success to win support for Medicaid expansion in the Virginia General Assembly.
Virginia’s Democratic governor cited Pence as an example just after Indiana received permission from the federal government to implement its own version of Medicaid expansion.
“Even conservative Republican governors like Mike Pence in Indiana have seen the light,” McAuliffe said, according to remarks prepared for his appearance at a health care sign-up event in February 2015.
“The federal government just approved the Hoosier State’s plan last week. But while Virginia’s legislators mull over all of that, I’m working hard every day to make sure every Virginian has a shot at affordable health care.”
Virginia Speaker of the House William J. Howell, R-Stafford, and Pence spoke during Virginia’s battle over Medicaid expansion in 2014, according to Matt Moran, a spokesman for Howell.
“The speaker doesn’t agree with Governor Pence’s position on Medicaid expansion but appreciates his conservative leadership on taxes and spending,” Moran said Friday.
“His nomination doesn’t lessen the House’s opposition to expanding Medicaid at all.”
In a letter to Howell dated May 30, 2014, Pence noted that he had discussed the issue with the Virginia speaker and he applauded GOP efforts in the House of Delegates “to resist traditional Medicaid expansion in Virginia.”
“While the specific solutions Indiana has proposed may not be the best approach for other states such as Virginia,” Pence wrote, “I believe our respective experiences in reform can help guide the future of Medicaid in America.”
Virginia House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox, R-Colonial Heights, said Friday that he likes Trump’s selection of Pence. Cox cited Pence’s experience as an executive and as a member of Congress.
Cox said he believes Pence has been “a very good governor” and noted that he pushed for a balanced budget amendment to Indiana’s state constitution.
But he splits with Pence on Medicaid expansion.
“On that issue, I do disagree,” Cox said, underscoring that Virginia Republicans do not believe that the federal government can meet its pledge of assuming no less than 90 percent of the costs to the state.
In his State of the Commonwealth Address in January, McAuliffe again urged lawmakers to “find a way forward together” on Medicaid expansion. He noted that Louisiana had become the 31st state to expand coverage.
“Each day that we do not close the coverage gap, we forfeit $6.6 million in federal money,” McAuliffe said. “Each month we are wasting $15 million in costs to state taxpayers that could be covered entirely with federal dollars.”
In a 2010 speech in Richmond to the Family Foundation of Virginia, Pence, then a member of Congress, urged repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
“If Obamacare becomes permanent,” he said, “it will forever change the relationship between the American people and their national government.”