As many of you know, there is a new proposal for Medicaid expansion in Virginia. Last Thursday Medicaid expansion supporters in the state Senate announced a formal proposal for health care reform in Virginia. As expected, the plan calls for the creation of a Virginia-run Health Insurance Marketplace and then using that marketplace to buy private insurance for those eligible for Medicaid expansion.
The draft plan for setting up a Virginia Health Insurance Marketplace looks reasonable. It is at the State Corporation Commission but includes a diverse Advisory Board and appears to be silent on the question of using buying power to achieve lower rates (Active Purchasing). The draft language also includes all of the federal protections from the Affordable Care Act.
Details on the specifics of closing the coverage gap are a little harder to come by but it includes: cost sharing requirements of “up to” 5%; a Virginia Taxpayer Recovery Fund to capture the federal money; incentives for job search and work activities; eligibility for everyone under 100% of the poverty level; plans that cover the essential health benefits; stresses on additional funding for mental health services; and clear language that Virginia will discontinue coverage if the federal money is reduced below promised levels.
This plan will be added to the version of the state Budget adopted by the state Senate. Since there has been and still is strong support for Medicaid expansion in the state Senate this should be easy. The controversy will then turn to the state House of Delegates, which will produce its own version of the budget. If the House budget does not include expansion, the decision will be made in a conference committee in early March. So politically, the emphasis continues to be on the members of the House of Delegates.
Over this past weekend new rules were announced delaying the employer mandate a little bit more. Employers with between 50 and 100 employees will not have to provide health insurance to their full time employees until 2016, rather than 2015. Employers with 100 or more employees will still need to provide health insurance in 2015 or face what could be significant fines.
See http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/ for information on the Virginia General Assembly, including who your state Delegate or Senator is.
We did some very successful and enjoyable lobbying during our January 15 Small Business Lobby Day. We contacted at least 10 legislators and discovered one supporter we did not expect. We are planning another Lobby Day for next Wednesday, February 19. Please contact Bob Becker at 804-937-0752 if you are interested in joining us on February 19.
Our lobbying was successful because we were able to bring some of the unique concerns of small businesses to the debate over health care reform. On Medicaid expansion, some of the small business owners who provide health insurance talked about the thousands of dollars they will save if Virginia expands Medicaid while others were able to talk about the value of employees getting coverage through expansion even though the owner cannot afford the coverage. All of the owners were able to talk about the general economic value of Medicaid expansion, since everyone agrees that expansion will create at least 30,000 new jobs in Virginia.
Last Friday, small businessman Kevin Wilson spoke at a press conference in favor of Medicaid expansion. You can watch Kevin’s statement at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldm1464YUQA&feature=c4-overview&list=UUFvPoUKLH4vLDBXEixZM0dg
These updates are a service of Virginia Organizing. Contact Bob Becker at 804-937-0752 or reply to this email with questions or comments. Feel free to forward these updates!