When they first announced this week’s special session, Republican leaders in the General Assembly promised a “full and fair” debate on efforts to close the coverage gap — a promise both chambers have broken.
In the Senate, no floor debate on the coverage gap took place. Bills languished when multiple committees refused to meet. This morning, Senate Finance briefly considered a single piece of health care legislation — which would not have closed the coverage gap — before shunting it off to JLARC for further review.
In the House, consideration of a coverage gap bill ended when most Republicans voted down a procedural motion. Despitepromises of a solution from other Republicans, the Speaker did not introduce or support the “alternative approach” to closing the coverage gap that he has called for in the past.
Said Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Chair Sen. Mamie Locke (D – Hampton), “The General Assembly just spent thousands of taxpayer dollars doing absolutely nothing to close the coverage gap. After calling us back to Richmond for a so-called ‘full and fair’ debate, Republicans once again failed to deliver the plan they promised in January, more than eight months ago. They should be ashamed.”
Said Sen. George Barker (D – Fairfax), “The General Assembly didn’t just fail to close the coverage gap. Although the session had been billed as acting on health care for people, the Senate did not take up a single health care bill yesterday. I introduced a bill to allow up to 250,000 people to keep their current health insurance. I hoped we would take action to help these people. We must act soon because otherwise, with Virginia already seeing an increase in the uninsured, we may be further expanding rather than closing the coverage gap.”
Said Democratic Caucus Chair Sen. Donald McEachin (D – Henrico), “The Republicans’ commitment to debate the coverage gap was a fraud perpetrated on Virginians. We were called to Richmond by the Republicans for a full and fair debate on Medicaid expansion, and that never happened. You can’t have a fair debate when one side pre-judges the issue, as happened in the House. And in the Senate, there was no health care debate at all. The least Virginians deserve is honesty from their leaders.”
Said Democratic Leader Sen. Dick Saslaw (D – Fairfax), “It’s unfortunate that we came here for two days with everyone already knowing what the result would be. As far as the coverage gap was concerned, this session was for show and nothing else.”