Hanger Throws out Lifeline on Budget?

It’s been a depressing last few weeks.  The budget impasse carries on.  The House refuses to accept Federal Medicaid dollars.  The revenue projections are tumbling.  And yesterday somebody punched Brad Pitt in the face at his movie premier.

So it was a breath of fresh air when I heard today from Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Mt. Solon) with an original solution on the budget stalemate.

Senator Hanger is one of the good guys:  he does the right thing and doesn’t get pushed around by the hard-core.  He’s also served on the Senate Finance committee for the past decade which makes him part of the institutional budget memory.

Among other things, Senator Hanger is the chairman of “MIRC” which is the shadowy legislative body that is supposed to “innovate and reform” Medicaid, prior to us accepting Federal funds.  This group was chartered in 2013 by the Assembly, when we couldn’t agree on Medicaid expansion, and it has failed to find sufficient “progress” in Medicaid reform so as to accept the Federal funds.

In its 2013 chartering, the MIRC was given a “poison pill” which is the requirement that Medicaid expansion can only occur after a “super-majority” of MIRC members in each body (Senate and House) approve it.

Under Senator Hanger’s proposal today, that requirement is changed to allow a “simple majority” of MIRC members to veto the plan.  In other words, the Senators can approve a Medicaid expansion plan — even if only for a couple years — without the House members of MIRC exercising their veto.

This is not a great solution, mainly because it is antithetical to good government (and arguably unconstitutional) to delegate the Assembly’s constitutional spending authority to a rump body of legislators.  However, we’ve already established MIRC in 2013 and no one’s sued us — yet.

Of course, the preferred option is simply to adopt the market-based reforms, Marketplace Virginia, that the Senate previously passed or come up with a similar alternative to access the Federal funds.  But apparently nothing motivates some people like denying health insurance which is already paid for.

In the meantime, kudos to Senator Hanger for trying to think outside the box.


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