Post-Session: HAV Coalition

The 2015 General Assembly Session has ended without closing the health care coverage gap in Virginia. While the adopted budget includes some good provisions for safety net providers and a limited group of low-income adults with serious mental health conditions, the failure to close the gap for up to 400,000 Virginians overshadows those measures.

Many HAV supporters and partners participated in the coalition’s work this year — attending press events, HAV lobby day, weekly meetings, contacting legislators, communicating with newspapers/media, and dispelling the misinformation that continues to come from opponents. The 105 supporting organizations understand how important this issue is for consumers, hospitals, health providers and Virginia’s economy.

The HAV Coalition will continue to advocate for expanded coverage and keep this issue alive and in the public discussion over the next months into the election season and in preparation for the 2016 session.

HAV Statement on the Decision Not to Close the Coverage Gap by the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees

The Healthcare for All Virginians (HAV) Coalition is deeply disappointed in the members of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees for their refusal to include the federal funding available to provide health insurance to over 400,000 low income Virginians.

The budgets adopted yesterday leave gaping holes in Virginia’s safety net. While committee members included some funding for health clinics and the seriously mentally ill, that is a piecemeal approach to an enormous problem.

Hundreds of thousands of hardworking people across the Commonwealth will continue to suffer because they don’t have the healthcare they need.

Since January 1, 2014, Virginia has forfeited over $1.7 billion dollars in federal funding that Virginians have already paid in their taxes. That money needs to come back to Virginia to support the uninsured, hospitals, and to help Virginia’s economy. Yesterday’s actions mean Virginia will continue to forfeit over $4 million dollars, every single day. It is irresponsible for the money committees to reject billions of dollars in the face of enormous needs.

Once again, Virginia joins the minority of states that are refusing to accept federal funds to address the needs of the uninsured. Today – 29 states (including the District of Columbia) have already closed their coverage gaps.

It’s a sad day when legislators allow a political agenda to trump the urgent needs of Virginia families. The HAV Coalition will continue to advocate for action until this coverage is a reality for low-income Virginians.

Healthcare for All Virginians Press Conference

HAV press confAs supporters of closing the health care coverage gap, Healthcare for All Virginians Coalition held a press conference in renewing our call for the legislature to take action this session and accept the funding available to Virginia to close the gap and get up to 400,000 people the health care they need.

“We challenge opponents to stop saying ‘NO’ to everything. Stop wasting precious dollars, stop hurting hospitals, and stop compromising the health of their constituents,” said Jill Hanken, Senior Health Attorney with the Virginia Poverty Law Center. “We have a statewide problem, and there is an efficient and cost-effective way to solve it: Accept the funding available to Virginia to Close the Coverage Gap.”

“There’s a very strong fiscal argument to closing the coverage gap,” said Michael Cassidy, President of The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis. “The state would see very significant state budget savings by not having to pay for the wide array of services we currently provide to the uninsured with state general fund dollars. At a time when lawmakers are considering further cuts to key services, these savings are being left on the table. Lawmakers have a fiscally responsible way to close the coverage gap. What’s not fiscally responsible is to ignore options to close the gap, to continue to have Virginia tax dollars go to Washington and not come back in the form of greater opportunities to access health care for our residents,” said Cassidy.

He also called attention to a recent report, Every Legislator, Every District, that identifies the hard numbers around constituents in every legislative district that stand to gain from closing the coverage gap.

Unlike Virginia, a majority of states have taken advantage of the opportunity to expand their Medicaid programs. Today, 27 states plus the District of Columbia have closed their coverage gaps. This includes neighboring states like West Virginia and Kentucky. It also includes states led by Republican Governors like Pennsylvania, Arizona, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Ohio.

In addition to the states that have already expanded, there are now at least four additional states led by Republican governors that have filed proposals or are negotiating with CMS to close their coverage gaps. These states are Tennessee, Wyoming, Utah, and Indiana. Montana and Alaska also are contemplating proposals, and there are suggestions from the Governors of North Carolina and Alabama that expansion could be considered there as well.

“These states are realizing it makes no sense to pass up the available federal funding to help low-income uninsured people receive much-needed health care,” said Hanken.