- - Monday, November 4, 2013

When President Obama arrived in Virginia on Sunday to campaign for Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, his 21-minute speech was notable for what the president couldn’t say. There was no mention at all of Obamacare, his supposed “signature” achievement, and he made only passing mention of his campaign to expand Medicaid in Virginia. He couldn’t bring attention to the millions who face losing their health coverage, or why come to Virginia in the first place? He certainly didn’t want to bring attention to what Kathleen Murphy had said about health care two nights earlier.

Ms. Murphy is the Democratic candidate in the 34th District in the Virginia House of Delegates, which covers parts of Fairfax and Loudoun counties. She committed the grave sin of candor when she complained Friday night that many doctors won’t accept Medicaid and Medicare patients. Ms. Murphy thinks the government should require physicians to accept those patients whether they want to or not. Her opponent in the debate, the incumbent Barbara Comstock, was appalled.

“It was very reflective of how she thinks,” Mrs. Comstock later told The Washington Times. Ms. Murphy’s position, she said, “demonstrates a total lack of understanding” of how the medical profession operates. Medicaid payments are inadequate to cover doctors’ expenses already, and compelling physicians to treat more of them would further put doctors in a bind. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that “with a growing, aging population,” the United States expects a shortage of more than 91,500 physicians in both primary care and medical specialties by 2020, a shortfall it expects to grow to 130,600 by 2025. Conscripting doctors, as Ms. Murphy suggests, would make matters worse. One candidate in one local race does not a party consensus make, but this is more evidence of where Democrats intend to go, a single-payer system where medical professionals effectively become state or federal employees, subject to government supervision in all they do.

“The reason doctors are not participating in Medicaid already is because it is a dysfunctional program burdened with an unworkable bureaucracy that needs reform,” says Delegate John O’Bannon, a Henrico Republican who is a practicing physician. “The last thing we need is more Washington-style mandates that hamper doctors and the health care system.”


Medicaid is already the fastest-growing item in the Virginia budget, having grown from $3 billion in 2002 to more than $7 billion in 2012. Expanding Medicaid in Virginia under Obamacare, as Mr. McAuliffe and Ms. Murphy advocate, would increase its rolls by 400,000 patients.

There’s another, if unspoken, issue in play in this debate. This affects more than just physicians. “If people thought the denial of their liberty under Obamacare was over, Terry McAuliffe and Kathleen Murphy have got a lot more in store for you,” Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor, said on Washington’s WMAL radio on Monday. Virginia voters should bear that in mind Tuesday as they elect a new governor and a new House of Delegates.