Democrats fight GOP attacks on healthcare

virginia state capitolAs the General Assembly reconvened in Richmond on Wednesday, Democrats reaffirmed their commitment to protect Virginians’ access to affordable and comprehensive healthcare. During the 2019 regular session, Republicans put forth bills that would undermine the Affordable Care Act, strip away essential health benefits, and raise the cost of premiums in the marketplace.

One set of Republican-backed bills, SB 1240 and SB 1674, would have established “short-term limited duration plans” (STLDs) that are not compliant with the ACA. Not only would STLDs allow insurers to charge higher premiums to people based on their gender, they would not be subject to the prohibitions on pre-existing condition exclusions. STLDs would draw young, healthy people out of the ACA marketplace, leading to higher premiums for everyone else, and leaving the consumers of STLDs with inadequate coverage should they need care.

Another Republican-backed proposal, HB 2260 and its companion bill SB 1027, aimed to expand “catastrophic health plans” to the general population. Under catastrophic health plans, a family of three would only be allowed up to three primary care visits per year – for all other care, they would have to first pay up to $15,800 before receiving coverage.

Both STLDs and catastrophic health plans leave Virginians vulnerable to exponentially higher medical bills should they need anything more than basic care, and while Virginia Republicans passed them under the auspices of lowering premiums, these inadequate plans would increase premiums on the marketplace and spend more taxpayer money on emergency room care.

“Just last year, we were able to enact a historic bipartisan expansion of healthcare coverage that made up to 400,000 Virginians eligible for the state’s Medicaid program for the first time. One year later, Virginia Republicans are looking for ways to undercut the health insurance market by advocating for faulty plans that would increase premiums and exclude coverage of essential health benefits,” said Senate Democratic co-whip Janet Howell (D-Fairfax). “The difference has never been more clear: Virginia Democrats are fighting for increased access to quality, affordable healthcare while Republicans are trying to skirt the ACA to deprive Virginians of the care they deserve.”

“Virginia Republicans are taking a page out of President Trump’s playbook, trying to pass misleading ‘skinny’ health plans that deprive Virginia families of essential benefits at deceitful rates designed to undercut the entire health insurance market,” said Senate Democratic co-whip Scott Surovell (D-Mount Vernon).  “While our Republican colleagues push broken solutions to one of our greatest challenges, Democrats will continue to protect the progress we’ve made by expanding Medicaid and fight to increase access to quality, affordable healthcare for all Virginians.”

Democrats also fought to overcome Republicans’ attempts to block women in Virginia from accessing quality reproductive healthcare. This year, Republicans in the House of Delegates stoked a social media firestorm to prevent women from being able to make medically informed decisions about their reproductive care in consultation with their doctors. Republicans continued their assault on reproductive care by trying to limit the reach of Virginia’s pilot program that provides long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) to underprivileged women.

“Denying women access to contraceptives would take us back several decades,” said House Democratic co-whip Mike Mullin (D-Newport News). “It’s time that Republicans acknowledge women’s reproductive care for what it is: healthcare.”

Republicans also passed a budget amendment that would strip all funding for healthcare providers that offer abortion services, such as Planned Parenthood.

“Republicans’ war on choice not only threatens reproductive healthcare access, but if their budget amendment were to pass, it would also disadvantage the many Virginians who receive pre-natal care, STD testing, contraception, and more essential health services from providers like Planned Parenthood,” said House Democratic co-whip Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington).

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