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This Business Group Is The Last Holdout Against Extending Health Care To Poor People In Virginia

By Sy Mukherjee on February 28, 2014 at 11:37 am

"This Business Group Is The Last Holdout Against Extending Health Care To Poor People In Virginia"

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) speaks at an event sponsored by the National Federation of Independent Business in 2013

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) speaks at an event sponsored by the National Federation of Independent Business in 2013

CREDIT: Flickr

The vast majority of Virginia hospitals and businesses agree on the financial wisdom of accepting Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. But one group doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo: the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), a conservative small business association that often allies itself with Republican interests.

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, small business groups including the Virginia Chamber of Commerce — not exactly known for its progressive predilections — are pushing for an alternative to pure Medicaid expansion that would use federal dollars to help nearly 400,000 low-income residents buy private insurance through Obamacare’s marketplaces. That plan has already been approved by the Virginia Senate, but faces fierce opposition in the House.

The Virginia COC, which has 16,000 members and represents about 30,000 Virginia businesses, even presented an 11-point proposal earlier this week in order to tout the business and economic benefits of expanding Medicaid via the so-called “private option.”

“It’s about our people, it’s about our communities, it’s about our customers, it’s about the right thing to do,” said Kevin Reynolds, president of Cardinal Bank and chairman emeritus of the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, in an interview with the Dispatch-Times.

But NFIB, which has about 5,500 members, held its own press conference alongside anti-expansion Virginia House GOP leaders as the COC was giving its presentation. “Not everybody in the business community thinks expanding Medicaid is a good idea,” said NFIB state director Nicole Riley.

It’s not hard to see why most businesses do think it’s a good idea. As the Virginia COC points out on its website, “[b]usinesses will incur, on average, $1.8 billion in ACA-related taxes per year to pay for federal health care reform, regardless of whether or not the Commonwealth opts to expand Medicaid… If Virginia does nothing, we receive nothing except a bill to be paid by Virginia’s businesses. That is why Virginia must create a private option.”

A recent study by the Commonwealth Fund also noted that Texas, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, and other GOP-led states rejecting the expansion will cost their residents billions of dollars by making them pay taxes into a system from which they won’t benefit. Virginia taxpayers are slated to lose out on almost $3 billion by 2022.

NFIB hasn’t been shy about touting its anti-ACA views. Most of the top news stories currently listed on its website are articles criticizing the Affordable Care Act. The group has also been a historic opponent of health care reform generally, lobbying hard against President Bill Clinton’s efforts to pass a comprehensive reform bill in 1993.

In the meantime, Virginia businesses are already facing the consequences of failing to expand Medicaid. At least one rural hospital in the state has already shut down because it can no longer afford to care for poor, uninsured people who can’t pay their medical bills. More are expected to follow if Virginia continues to refuse the expansion.

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