- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 20, 2012

RICHMOND — Democratic leaders in the Virginia Senate on Tuesday again urged Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell to call a special session to discuss how the state will address the federal health care overhaul.

States face a Dec. 14 deadline to decide whether to set up their own exchange for people to shop for private health insurance policies or allow the federal government to run them.

In a news release, Senate Democratic leader Richard L. Saslaw of Fairfax and Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman A. Donald McEachin of Henrico County said Mr. McDonnell should call lawmakers back into session to create a state-based health insurance program.

Mr. McDonnell has previously said that a special session was not necessary and a waste of taxpayer dollars. And while the governor said Virginia would default to the federal exchange option, the state could change course at a later date.

A spokesman for Mr. McDonnell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The General Assembly passed a law last year — and Mr. McDonnell signed it — giving the governor the authority to plan for implementing a state-based health benefits exchange. Mr. McDonnell has not responded to recommendations made by his advisory council a year ago on how to create the exchange.

Mr. McDonnell and House Speaker William Howell, Stafford Republican, blocked legislative attempts this year to create a state-based exchange.

But Mr. Saslaw said, “Virginians deserve an exchange that suits their specific needs, not a one-size-fits-all solution from the federal government.”

Mr. McDonnell also has said he opposes expanding the state’s Medicaid program, which provides care for the needy, elderly, blind, disabled and poor families with children. The program is funded jointly by federal and state governments.

A handful of states with Republican governors have said they will not expand Medicaid, which means they relinquish an influx of federal funding that goes with it. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the government could not withhold federal funds for current Medicaid benefits in states that choose not to expand the program.

Virginia was one of the states that challenged the health care overhaul, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in June.

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