GOP AGAIN DEFEATS EFFORTS TO CLOSE THE COVERAGE GAP

On near-party-line vote, Senate strikes Gov. McAuliffe’s Medicaid Expansion language from the budget

Richmond, Va. – In a near-party-line vote of 22-15, the Senate today approved budget amendment 301 #11s. The amendment strikes language from Gov. McAuliffe’s introduced budget that would have closed the health insurance coverage gap, enabling up to 400,000 Virginians — most from working families — to access quality, affordable health care. Republican leader Sen. Tommy Norment (R - James City) moved to cut off debate after just one senator had spoken; that motion passed on a near-party-line vote of 23-14. In response, Senate Democrats later made the following statements:

Said Sen. Barbara Favola (D - Arlington), "I think as lawmakers we actually have an obligation to look at the facts, to put politics aside, to do what’s right for the Commonwealth. That’s why we were elected, and I don’t think we should renege on that. I’m sorry we didn’t do the right thing today on Medicaid expansion, but I don’t think this fight is over."

Said Sen. George Barker (D - Farifax), "What we need to do is to do our own analyses of these types of claims that were made last year, understand what is happening, and when we get back here next year, be willing to act on closing the coverage gap — based not upon our fears, not upon our suspicion of whether or not things are true, but on the facts of the difference that it can make in the lives of Virginians. […] I am confident that if we do that when we get back here next year, we will act to close the coverage gap."

Said Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D - Loudoun), “Once again, we’ve missed an opportunity to save hundreds of lives — and hundreds of millions of dollars — every year. Many hardworking Virginians earn too much for traditional Medicaid, but too little for tax credits and subsidies available through our health exchange. Through no fault of their own, these Virginians are caught in a coverage gap — and I’m deeply disappointed that we’ve have once again failed to help them.”

Said Sen. Lynwood Lewis (D - Accomack), “Our broken status quo leaves hundreds of thousands of uninsured Virginians with no good options for care. Closing the coverage gap would enable these hardworking men and women to access quality, affordable health care — at a net savings to the Commonwealth. I am deeply upset that we have once again failed to help them.”

Addressing his Republican colleagues, Caucus Chair Sen. Donald McEachin (D - Henrico) said, “You turned your backs on them today: 400,000 hardworking Virginians. Maybe they’re part-timers just like you and I are part-timers, but it was wrong to do it that way, it was wrong to cut off debate. […] Senates across the country are deliberative bodies, and to not even offer us the courtesy of open debate was wrong.”

BACKGROUND

Closing the coverage gap will enable up to 400,000 Virginians — seventy percent of whom belong to working families — to access health care that is currently out of reach. Independent experts say that closing the gap would save hundreds of lives every year — a finding supported by lower mortality rates in states that have recently expanded coverage.

Acting now makes economic sense, as well. Outside analysts have found that closing the gap would create more than 30,000 jobs; enable us to return billions of our federal tax dollars to Virginia every year; spark economic activity worth billions more; and save the state hundreds of millions of dollars over the next several years. Every day we delay costs us $4 million.

Virginia’s failure to close the coverage gap has contributed to at least one hospital closure, as well as layoffs at other hospitals across the state. Consequently, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association calls closing the coverage gap “our number one priority.” An incredibly wide variety of other groups —ranging from the Virginia AFL-CIO to the American Heart Association — have called for action, as well.

 

The Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus supports the legislative, political and electoral endeavors of Virginia Democratic senators. The caucus does everything it can to help senators carry out their mission to represent all Virginians and pass legislation that reflects Virginia’s mainstream values.
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