New Poll: Large Majority of Virginia Voters Support Improving the ACA, Closing the Coverage Gap


October 8, 2015

New Poll: Large Majority of Virginia Voters Support Improving the ACA, Closing the Coverage Gap

RICHMOND, Va. — A new survey of likely voters in five states – Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia – shows solid majorities believe the Affordable Care Act is here to stay (64 percent) and that Congress should work to improve the law (71 percent).

Moreover, in all five states, a large majority of voters support closing the health care coverage gap, created when the Supreme Court made expanding Medicaid optional under the ACA. In Virginia, nearly three-quarters of voters (74 percent) said Virginia should accept the federal funding set aside to close the coverage gap, an action that would make health care coverage available for up to 400,000 uninsured Virginians.

“This latest survey confirms what we continue to hear over and over across Virginia,” said Jill Hanken of the Virginia Poverty Law Center. “Voters understand that their fellow hardworking Virginians need the security of health coverage to get care when they need it, without facing huge medical bills or going into bankruptcy.”

A majority of states — 31 including the District of Columbia — have already taken advantage of the opportunity to close their coverage gaps and provide quality, affordable health insurance to their residents.

“We must move forward to lower health care costs for all Virginians,” said Hanken.

The survey was conducted by PerryUndem Research/Communication September 15-19, 2015; 1,005 adults who said they were likely to vote in the 2016 elections and have a history of voting in the 2012 or 2008 elections responded. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percentage points. The results were released by Community Catalyst and Service Employee International Union (SEIU).

For more information, visit


Media Contacts

Jill Hanken
(804) 402-2460

Patrick Getlein
(804) 396-2051 x103

The Half Sheet: In Rural Areas, Health Care Is at Risk

Hospitals Are Struggling-01

The 400,000 low-income, uninsured Virginians aren’t the only ones struggling to get by because state lawmakers haven’t closed the coverage gap. At least half of rural hospitals, and maybe more than that, were in the red last year, according to the Virginia Hospital and Health Care association and confirmed by PolitiFact Virginia.

With so many hospitals struggling, there are bound to be consequences. And there have been.

Back in 2013, Lee Regional Medical Center closed its doors in part because state lawmakers refused to adapt to the changing health care landscape where more people are supposed to have insurance to pay for the care they receive. The closing of Lee Regional hurt the local community and economy. It wiped out 140 good paying jobs. It also left an entire county without a hospital, drastically increasing the drive time for people needing emergency treatment. And it’s not as if Lee County is an area flush with physicians and alternative health care options: many uninsured folks from out that way rely on a once-a-year clinic that sets up camp at the regional airport and the occasional visit from a retrofitted RV. In fact, Lee is in the same neck of the woods as Grundy, which has the terrible monicker of Sickest Town in America.

While other hospitals have been able to keep their doors open, some have had to cut staff and services. At least 540 more jobs have been lost as hospitals across the state reduced their staffing levels, and that doesn’t include the hundreds of other employees who had their hours or wages cut.

Making matters worse, people who live outside of metropolitan areas in Virginia – like Lee County – are 19 percent more likely to be uninsured than their more urban counterparts. In total, 12.7 percent of people who live in more rural areas are uninsured, compared with just 10.7 percent in metropolitan areas. And when you have lots of people who can’t afford health insurance, you most likely also have lots of people who can’t afford costly, unexpected medical bills.

Struggling rural hospitals would be better off if more of their customers had insurance to help pay for the care they receive. One way to help fix that problem is to close the coverage gap, which could help as many as 400,000 low-income, uninsured Virginians get the care they need and make sure hospitals get paid for the services they provide. Had state lawmakers agreed to help them when they first had the chance in 2014, more than $2.8 billion dollars would have been pumped into our economy, largely through our hospitals.

One thing is for sure — the status quo is not sustainable. Rural hospitals and low-income, uninsured folks who are struggling to make ends meet can’t foot all of the bill. State lawmakers have a way to help, but they have to act.

–Massey Whorley, Senior Policy Analyst

Forum: League of Women Voters

Medicaid Expansion in Virginia: What Would the Impact Be? (Entire Forum)
Tens of thousands of Virginians fall into the healthcare coverage gap because they do not qualify for Medicaid or another public program, do not receive coverage through their job, and do not qualify for subsidies to purchase insurance in the private market. In this panel, five distinguished speakers from government, business, and the health sector discuss the impact of the coverage gap on Virginians and the state’s economy.

Speakers (in order of appearance): Massey Whorley (Commonwealth Institute), Joe Flores (Virginia Secretariat of Health and Human Resources), Sheila Ryan (Arlington Free Clinic), Joe Vidulich (Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce), and Mary Margaret Whipple (Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association).
The Q&A

The Half Sheet: Virginia’s Dismal Performance

Virginia turned in a dismal performance on reducing the number of uninsured residents in 2014 because state lawmakers have refused to close the coverage gap and help people who can’t otherwise afford health insurance. Meanwhile, neighboring states – like Kentucky, West Virginia, and Maryland – are out in front seeing historic gains in coverage that help their residents get the care they need to go to work, take care of their kids, and be healthy, productive members of their community.

Virginia had 107,000 fewer uninsured people in 2014, according to official data on health insurance rates released today by the Census Bureau. That’s a small drop – just 11 percent – from 2013, and it would have been much larger had the state closed the coverage gap. States that have done so had much higher reductions in the share of people without insurance. Kentucky saw a drop of 41 percent. West Virginia saw a drop of 39 percent. And Maryland saw their uninsured drop rate by 22 percent.

The reason this matters is that insurance – public or private – is the first step to getting access to quality, affordable health care. And that level of care can provide much needed economic stability to people working hard to make ends meet.

Still, while Virginia hasn’t closed the coverage gap, other provisions of the Affordable Care Act are boosting the number of people with health insurance, which is a major reason Virginia had even a modest increase in the number of people with health care. Hundreds of thousands of people have gained coverage through the new federal health insurance marketplace, which allows people to easily compare prices and benefits of health care plans.

But the marketplace was never intended to help people with very low incomes. Some people who don’t make enough to afford private insurance receive federal subsidies to help them pay their premiums and reduce their out-of-pocket health costs, but a family of three who makes less than about $20,000 a year doesn’t qualify for this help because state lawmakers haven’t closed the coverage gap.

That’s not a problem with the law, it’s a problem with Virginia’s lawmakers, who have left 195,000 uninsured Virginians in the coverage gap and $230 million in state savings on the table. Those savings along with the new coverage could have gone towards building a stronger economy and safer communities. Instead, low-income Virginians continue to go without while their neighbors in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Maryland – and 27 other states plus D.C. – can get the health care they need to stay healthy and productive.

It’s not too late for Virginia to close the coverage gap and help make people’s lives better while saving the state money and boosting the economy.

– Michael J. Cassidy, President & CEO

The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis

Medicaid at 50: Looking Good and Capable of So Much More

In 1945, in a special message to Congress recommending a comprehensive health program, Harry Truman wrote: “People with low or moderate incomes do not get the same medical attention as those with high incomes. The poor have more sickness, but they get less medical care. People who live in rural areas do not get the same amount or quality of medical attention as those who live in our cities.”

Twenty years later, the nation adopted a fix called Medicaid. Today, Medicaid turns 50, and in its half century at work, the program has accomplished a lot. It provides quality health coverage for more than 68 million Americans so they can stay healthy and work while protecting their families from going bankrupt because of medical bills. In Virginia, Medicaid provides health coverage for more than 1 million people – mostly children, pregnant women, seniors, and the disabled.

But despite all the progress, President Truman’s description of health care disparity is stubbornly persistent in Virginia, and this is in large part because the state has chosen not to close the coverage gap as part of the Affordable Care Act. As effective as Medicaid is, it’s being prevented from reaching all the people who need it in Virginia.


Back in 2011, Remote Area Medical (RAM) visited Grundy – once called the sickest town in America – located in Buchanan County. Most of its patients were in dire need of dental care and waited in line before the crack of dawn to receive free dental care. Even in Arlington, often ranked one of the healthiest and wealthiest counties in the nation, about 100 people draw a lottery ticket each month at The Arlington Free Clinic hoping to become one of the handful of new patients to receive care. And most recently, more than 2,000 people stood in line to get health, dental, and vision care at the annual three-day clinic sponsored by RAM and The Health Wagon in rural Wise County.

The people served by these and other clinics are among the hundreds of thousands of Virginians who would benefit if the state took steps to close the coverage gap. But Virginia lawmakers’ stubborn refusal is keeping quality, affordable coverage out of reach for all but the most destitute, and then only if they have kids.

While Virginia’s current Medicaid program provides health care coverage for the elderly, disabled, children, and pregnant women, it remains extremely difficult for low-income adults to receive the care they need. Working parents in a family of three only qualify if they make less than about $10,300 a year, and that’s only if they live in the most expensive parts of the state, like Fairfax. In some parts of the state, working parents in a family of three don’t qualify if they make more than approximately $6,600. And childless adults aren’t eligible for Medicaid in Virginia at all. Closing the coverage gap would provide health insurance to single adults with income under about $16,200 a year, or adults in a family of three with less than about $27,700 a year. These hardworking families in Virginia need the security of quality coverage to get health care when they need it.

So far 30 states – including neighboring Kentucky and West Virginia – and the District of Columbia have closed their coverage gaps and used the available federal funding to do so.

With federal dollars covering 100 percent of the cost through 2016 and then gradually tapering to 90 percent by 2020, Virginia should take this opportunity, get health coverage to people who need it, save the state money on health care for low-income Virginians – like other states are doing – and give a boost to the economy.

Medicaid has done a lot to improve the health outcomes of people in Virginia and across the country in its 50 years. But it’s time for Virginia lawmakers to close the coverage gap so the state gets the boost it needs to do even more.

– Rebecca Park, Health Care Advocacy Coordinator