Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a right-wing group funded by the billionaire Koch Brothers, has been aggressively pressuring states to reject Obamacare’s optional Medicaid expansion. Last fall, the organization launched a massive campaign that has focused mainly on Virginia. But the latest town hall meetings hosted by AFP in the state aren’t exactly going well.
Over the past week, at several town halls intended to emphasize why Virginia shouldn’t expand Medicaid, GOP lawmakers have been confronted by constituents who are demanding to know why they’re denying health care from an estimated 400,000 low-income residents.
Last week, at an AFP-sponsored forum in Charlottesville featuring two GOP lawmakers who oppose the expansion, the event was packed with more than a hundred Medicaid supporters. Protesters gathered outside the building with signs encouraging passing cars to honk for Medicaid expansion, and a local outlet noted that the politicians faced a “hostile audience” inside, too.
Then, on Monday, three Republicans were “deluged with questions” about their refusal to expand Medicaid at an AFP event in Ashburn. The “largely hostile, relentless audience” asked why the lawmakers would want to turn down the billions in federal funding that’s designated for the states expanding their public health programs, particularly since business groups in Virginia support the policy.
Also on Monday, an anti-expansion Republican faced push back at an AFP town hall in Waynesboro, fending off multiple questions about Virginia’s refusal to extend coverage to additional low-income residents. Attendees pointed out that the benefits of expanding the program outweigh the potential costs.
Progressive groups in the state are encouraging lawmakers to listen to their constituents, and put public policy before partisan opposition to Obamacare. “Members of the House of Delegates face an important decision,” Anna Scholl, the executive director of ProgressVA, noted in a statement.
Although Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has continued to push for Medicaid expansion, the policy has been blocked by the GOP-controlled legislature. This isn’t the first time that state lawmakers have sparked controversy for their position in this area. Earlier this month, health care advocates blasted lawmakers for voting to spend $430 million dollars to build new offices for elected officials — the same amount of money that Virginia has missed out on because of its continued refusal to accept the funding for Medicaid expansion.
Virginia isn’t the only state where this dynamic is unfolding. Continued GOP-led resistance to Medicaid expansion is leaving an estimated 5.8 million impoverished Americans without any access to affordable health care whatsoever. Nonetheless, AFP has poured millions into anti-Obamacare advertising campaigns, and has specifically attempted to block Medicaid expansion in at least six states. Thanks to those well-funded misinformation campaigns about health care reform, many uninsured Americans in the poorest states don’t understand what their new options are under Obamacare.