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The FBI’s Peter Strzok spends 10 hours in open testimony in Congress. Also on the Friday rundown: Granite Staters protest AG Sessions' approach to fighting opioid abuse, and Latino Conservation Week starts on Saturday.

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Health Advocates: Va. Special Session Key to Closing Coverage Gap

Virginia state lawmakers aim to finish work on the budget during a special session April 11 to avoid a government shutdown. (Ken Lund/Flickr)
Virginia state lawmakers aim to finish work on the budget during a special session April 11 to avoid a government shutdown. (Ken Lund/Flickr)
March 15, 2018

RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia’s governor has set April 11 as the date for a General Assembly special session to settle a budget standoff over Medicaid expansion.

The General Assembly adjourned over the weekend without passing a budget because of differences among Republicans over Medicaid expansion - an issue the party has long resisted.

Health advocates say a special session to settle the impasse is one of the best chances they've seen in years to close the health coverage gap. They say nearly 400,000 low-income Virginians will finally be able to gain health coverage if a budget deal is reached and the state moves forward with passing Medicaid expansion.

Republican leaders in the House supported a budget that included Medicaid expansion, but most Senate Republicans remain opposed.

Jim Dau, AARP Virginia’s state director, says while the plan is not perfect, it's long overdue.

"(It’s) at least a very positive step forward in looking at the overall budget, the saving the state has as a result of being able to draw down these federal funds, bringing these tax dollars back to Virginia, they are making long-overdue investments in things like public safety," Dau says.

Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment said last week that the two plans were about $843 million apart in terms of funding. Gov. Ralph Northam has now set April 11 as the date for the special session on the budget.

Dau says lawmakers – particularly those in the House – deserve credit for working across the aisle because the General Assembly has never been this close to considering Medicaid expansion.

"They are paying attention to the message they got from voters in November that health care in Virginia and expanding coverage is a critically important priority for them,” he says. “Those members of Virginia's Senate majority caucus, they don't see it quite the same way, and I think that their position is a bit outdated."

House Speaker Kirk Cox previously said that going home for a few days could help cool tensions and enable a budget deal to be reached later. If lawmakers cannot pass a budget before the end of Virginia's fiscal year on June 30, the state's government will shut down.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - VA