Jay on Healthcare

Over the last eight years, healthcare has been at the front and center of our party’s legislative agenda and rightfully so. As Senator Edward Kennedy said in 2008, healthcare is a “fundamental right and not a privilege.” I firmly believe this sentiment, and strongly supported President Obama’s efforts to pass the Affordable Care Act in 2010. The ACA preserved and expanded our Medicaid system, and expanded coverage to millions of Americans that previously went uninsured. The ACA was truly a landmark piece of legislation that moved America forward.

Sadly, the Republican legislature in Virginia refused to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid. It is well known that expanding Medicaid in Virginia would cover an additional 400,000 of our fellow citizens. Instead, Virginians’ tax dollars are being used to insure citizens in other states (with Republican-controlled state legislatures) that have accepted additional Medicaid funds. For example, our tax dollars are subsidizing health coverage in Kentucky and Arkansas and Virginians receive no benefit.

Now, the ACA’s achievements are in serious jeopardy. The American Healthcare Act, recently passed by the United States House of Representatives, represents a significant step backward for health coverage in this country.

Specifically, Virginia stands to be severely impacted by the proposed bill. The AHCA proposes draconian cuts to Medicaid, on which a considerable number of Virginians rely for health services. One in eight Virginians depend on Medicaid, including one third of our children and two thirds of our seniors in nursing homes. The AHCA would also allow insurers to charge older Americans up to five times more than younger people for an identical policy. Our veterans and rural citizens would also face significant struggles under this healthcare proposal. We cannot afford to leave these members of our communities in the cold.

Moreover, the AHCA will drastically reduce the conditions that the ACA required insurers to cover. Under the new proposal, states would be allowed to eliminate “essential health benefits,” which includes coverage for certain prescription drugs, maternity care, mental health and substance abuse treatment. We understand that health conditions do not discriminate by race, gender, religion, or class, but the AHCA deliberately attempts to provide health coverage to only those that can afford it.

It pains me to think about my uncle, who deals with mental health issues, may be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition that he had no control over. He, and other family and friends, inform my passion to preserve a healthcare system that does not penalize anyone for a health condition that they did not ask for.

The ACA is far from perfect, but it represents the framework for a solid healthcare system in Virginia and our country. We must reject the AHCA as our way forward for healthcare and we have to expand Medicaid in Virginia. As your delegate, I will put our citizens first and work tirelessly to secure affordable healthcare for all Virginians. Insuring more Virginians is a common-sense policy because it drives everyone’s costs down and provides for a stronger, healthier Virginia that allows everyone to flourish.

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