Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling on Thursday announced conditional support for President Obama's Medicaid expansion, demonstrating again his newfound independence from the Republican Party.
Bolling, who is weighing an independent bid for governor after dropping out of the Republican nominating race, said in a letter to lawmakers that the state would save $300 million over the next five years by expanding health benefits to more low-income Virginians, thanks to an infusion of federal money. He said the long-terms costs of adding thousands to the Medicaid rolls as recommended under Obama's health care reforms would be significantly less than first believed.
"In addition, Medicaid expansion would be of tremendous benefit to health care providers in Virginia who have been absorbing the costs of uninsured care for many years," Bolling wrote.
Many Republicans already critical of Obama's health care reforms - Virginia was the first state to sue Obama over the new law - also oppose expanding Medicare to include more low-income beneficiaries. Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, included money in his latest budget for the expansion, but that was before the Supreme Court ruled that states can opt out of the expansion.
McDonnell said he won't support the expansion unless the federal government undertakes comprehensive reforms of Medicaid.
A year ago, Bolling would have toed the party line, but after dropping out of the Republican race for governor, he has bucked the GOP on a number of occasions. His quick opposition to lifting the uranium mining ban before McDonnell took a stance on it likely meant the proposal never had a chance in the Senate.