- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 2, 2016

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia’s Medicaid program will need an additional $281 million in the current two-year budget.

The projected increase was disclosed to legislative budget leaders on Tuesday, two months after Gov. Terry McAuliffe revealed a $1.48 billion revenue shortfall, local news organizations reported.

The McAuliffe administration said the forecast is driven by higher costs for services to the elderly and disabled.

Republican leaders, who have blocked Medicaid expansion for years, said the projection is evidence that the state needs to reform Medicaid.

House Speaker William J. Howell, a Republican from Stafford, argued that the forecast reinforces the GOP’s decision not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

“We continue to see costs on an unsustainable trajectory, even when enrollment levels stay the same,” Howell said. He added that reforms are needed to protect taxpayer dollars.

McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy argued that expanding Medicaid would save Virginia $211 million by using federal money to reduce the cost of care for people without insurance.

“Those savings could be invested in Virginia’s mental health system, treatment for heroin and opiate addictions or other priorities that will make life better for Virginians,” Coy said.

Gov. McAuliffe said he will work with the General Assembly to ensure the increase in the Medicaid forecast is reflected in the budget.

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