When I was sworn-in on Jan. 10, 2018, I was uninsured. It would be another three weeks before I had quality, affordable health insurance for the first time in 2.5 years. None of my constituents should have to have anything less.
That’s why I voted to expand Medicaid to 3,800 of my uninsured constituents and why I’m working to bring down expensive premiums. That is what happens when you keep your word and work to improve health insurance so it’s more inclusive, affordable and accessible with better quality instead of leaving people uninsured.
At the same time, there is so much work that remains to be done, not just to ensure more Virginians have health insurance coverage but to make sure every Virginian is treated fairly under the law.
Below is my record of what I’ve done and my plans for what I’ll continue to do as your delegate:
Expanding Health Insurance Coverage
Expanding Medicaid to 400,000 uninsured Virginians – including 3,800 of my constituents – was the single most consequential and important vote I cast during my first term because I know what it’s like to be uninsured. More than 279,000 Virginia adults enrolled in Medicaid in less than five months – far surpassing enrollment timeline expectations. Passing Medicaid expansion through the budget also included historic investments in mental and behavioral programs across the state as well as much needed funding to combat the opioid crisis.
At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Virginians who earn more than $17,256 per year remain uninsured or underinsured with $5,000 deductible plans that leave many people functionally uninsured. Meanwhile, even more Virginians have health insurance premiums that keep rising.
That means we need to stay vigilant. Here’s what we can do:
1) Maximize Medicaid expansion enrollment: I’ll continue working with the Department of Social Services in Prince William County and the City of Manassas Park to make sure than each and every one of the 3,800 constituents I represent, who are eligible for Medicaid expansion, have all the information they need to enroll if they so choose. My office has assisted many constituents in applying for coverage under Medicaid expansion and is happy to continue doing so in the future. Please visit www.coverva.org for eligibility and enrollment information.
2) Create a public option: I’ll keep encouraging our federal delegation to pass U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine’s Medicare-X Choice Act, which would create a public option that could drastically reduce the uninsured and underinsured populations in Virginia. This would build on Medicare to create a public plan offered on the individual and small business health exchanges, giving Americans the option to choose between existing private insurance plans or a public option. The Medicare-X legislation is currently under consideration in Congress. If there is no action on it at the federal level by 2021, I’ll work with my colleagues in the House of Delegates to re-examine how we can use the framework from the Marketplace Virginia proposed compromise from five years ago as a means of establishing a state-level public option while preserving Medicaid expansion.
3) Fight “junk” plans: I have voted against “buyer-beware” proposals lacking even some of the most basic protections that would dilute the health insurance market pool and raise insurance premiums on people with pre-existing conditions. I’ll continue working to make sure our legislature strengthens the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in Virginia and does not undermine it.
Covering Your Health Care Needs
Far too often, doctors prescribe their patients treatments that health insurers simply won’t cover because they’re not required to do so. I worked hard to close some of these health insurance coverage gaps for my constituents during my first term in office and I remain dedicated to making sure your health care needs are not excluded from coverage.
1) Mental Health: While I support fully implementing the recommendations of the Deeds Commission, I’m continuing my work to emphasize suicide prevention in the commonwealth. I was honored to earn the 2018 Virginia Counselors Association’s “Legislator of the Year” award for my advocacy on behalf of mental health care causes, including my resolution HJ 138 that would have ensured all employees in a school district are trained to identify the signs of suicidal ideation in students. I also voted for HB 2053 (2019) and the budget amendments this past session that allocated $12.2 million to improve the student-to-counselor ratio to start making progress on this issue. I’ll continue supporting our counselors, school psychologists and social workers to make sure our most vulnerable students receive the care they need.
2) Autism Spectrum-Related Healthcare: In 2018, I introduced HB 1113 to eliminate the age cap for autism-related health insurance coverage on behalf of one of my Manassas Park constituents and a group of moms in Prince William County. In 2019, I signed on as a co-patron of HB 2577 to eliminate (2019) all age requirements for autism-related health insurance coverage. This year, we got it done. I’ll continue to advocate for my autistic and Aspie constituents, especially students who are at risk of being misunderstood and mistreated by peers or staff due to a lack of awareness and training.
3) Mechanical Prosthetic Devices: For my amputee constituents, I introduced HB1478 (2018) and HB 2669 (2019) to require health insurers to cover doctor-prescribed mechanical prosthetic devices, such as myoelectric, biomechanical or microprocessor-controlled devices. HB 2669 requires doctor prescribed mechanical prosthetic devices with a Medicare code to be covered under all health plans regulated by the commonwealth. This is an opportunity to give members of the limb loss community, such as one of my constituents, access to the care they need, when they need it. HB 2669 was referred to the Health Insurance Reform Commission for further consideration. I’ll continue advocating for the limb loss community as a means of improving the mental and physical quality-of-life of my constituents.
4) LGBTQ Healthcare: Whether it’s access to PrEP, IVF treatments or transition-related health care, LGBTQ health care is health care. I signed on as the chief co-patron to HB 1466 (2018) and HB 1864 (2019) to ensure health insurance coverage for transition-related healthcare in Virginia. None of my constituents should have their health care needs rejected when they are following their doctors’ orders and this is a key issue as I champion non-discrimination in general for my LGBTQ constituents.