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Kaine urges healthcare fix that helps rural Virginia

In today’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine raised concerns about the painful effects of health care uncertainty on rural communities in Virginia, following news that that Optima will reduce its insurance offerings in Virginia after months of mixed messages and destabilizing actions from the Trump Administration.

tim kaineAddressing his Committee colleagues and a group of Governors, Kaine cautioned against these health care disparities that hurt rural communities and called on the bipartisan group of leaders to grapple with this issue to fix the growing divide between rural, suburban, and urban America.

“The Optima decision, the Anthem decision, is going to hit rural Virginia the hardest,” said Kaine.“Virginia did not expand Medicaid, that has hit rural Virginia the hardest, and I think one of the issues we have to grapple with, and many of your states are facing this too, is we don’t want to become two nations separated between rural America and the rest of the country.”

Kaine and U.S. Senator Tom Carper have introduced a reinsurance bill to stabilize the individual market and lower premiums. Kaine noted that the bipartisan group of governors agree that reinsurance can be helpful to “send a signal of stability to insurers that there will be a backstop against high cost claims, keeping them in the market.” A lack of insurance options is a problem that has hurt families in rural areas of the country, including in Virginia.

Kaine said, “You’ve done a very good job, each of you, as you’ve collectively described the benefits of reinsurance. You can lower premiums, by [lowering] premiums you can bring in more young healthy people, and other people who just find affordability more attractive obviously. By lowering premiums you reduce the advance premium tax credit, the subsidy [CSR payments] on the federal budget. You can protect high risk people and you can also send a signal of stability to insurers that there will be a backstop against high cost claims, keeping them in the market. The strategies that we’re talking about here and that have been validated by, yesterday and today, two groups of bipartisan leaders at the state level are anything but ‘a bailout’ for anyone, they’re really designed to help people and to provide at least some temporary stability with a predictability that will enable us to find bigger picture items.”

The Committee will again meet next week for two additional bipartisan hearings on health care improvements. HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander said yesterday that he hopes to have agreement on legislative options for the Senate soon.