Town Council denies resolution to urge Medicaid expansion

STRASBURG – Town Council has voted to deny a request to urge the Virginia legislature to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

The request came from a letter written by the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. It asked Virginia Municipal League members to sign a resolution asking the state’s general assembly to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

After a hearty discussion at Wednesday’s meeting, council voted 5-3 to deny the request. Councilmembers Kim Bishop, John “Red” Hall Jr., Don Le Vine, Shirley Maddox and Jocelyn Vena voted against the resolution, while Councilmembers Barbara Plitt, Scott Terndrup and Seth Newman voted in favor.

Several of the dissenting councilmembers said the town should not sign the resolution because the expansion would breed a cohort of people dependent on government aid to receive the financial care, and the burden would fall on taxpayers.

Bishop said she’s worried about the cycle of dependence on federal aid.

“When you put new people into the Medicaid system, you get an issue where you get these people depending on medical care,” she said. “There are probably issues paying for it too. Other states that have implemented this (expansion) are already talking about putting premiums on medical recipients to get them paying into it.”

While Vena agreed with Bishop’s point, she added there’s no reason for a town to get its hands dirty with a state and federal issue.

“I felt that this is a federal and state issue, and doesn’t have any weight with us,” she said. “I don’t think it’s something that a town should get involved in.”

On the other side, Terndrup said the expansion will not have an extra cost to the taxpayer after 2017 because the money will come from the federal government. More importantly, he said the town should sign the resolution, considering the roughly 600 families in Shenandoah County who would fall under Medicaid coverage given the expansion.

Agreeing with Terndrup, Newman said taxpayers already pay for the uninsured because of their emergency room visits that the hospitals have to pay for out of pocket. He added people who can’t afford health insurance aren’t lazy or losers, they just need assistance.

“Don’t think that the people on Medicaid are on the lam, don’t think they’re on the dole,” he said. “These are honest hardworking people who can’t get health insurance.”

“We’re talking about health care, not welfare,” Terndrup added.

Following the vote, Town Attorney Nathan Miller, who has served on the state legislature, said he was impressed with the councilmembers’ civility and depth of opinion in working out such a convoluted and precarious issue.

Also at the meeting, council unanimously approved a special-use permit for the Valley Pike Brewhouse at 177 King St.

Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or jzuckerman@nvdaily.com.