Category Archives: Blog

Open Enrollment ends February 15th!

Program Manager, Allie Atkeson with Commonwealth Covered students from Virginia Tech

Program Manager, Allie Atkeson with Commonwealth Covered students from Virginia Tech

Across Virginia organizations and volunteers have been working hard to make sure uninsured folks get enrolled in the Health Insurance Marketplace. With the deadline for open enrollment approaching on February 15, 2015 it is crucial to make sure that community members get the coverage they need. So far, approximately 9.9 million Americans and nearly 330,000 Virginians have selected or been automatically re-enrolled into a 2015 health insurance plan through

Commonwealth Covered chapters at Ferrum College, Virginia Tech, University of Richmond and William and Mary are working in their communities to connect consumers with coverage. On January 29th the Virginia Tech chapter students partnered with Enroll Virginia in Rocky Mount, VA to sign community members up for health insurance. One woman was able to get coverage for just $17 a month!

In Richmond and Hampton Roads, Gaylene Kanoyton with Celebrate Healthcare has organized “Enrollfests” – community health fairs with in-person assistance to help people enroll in plans on the Federal Marketplace. New federal figures show that 55,165 consumers in Richmond and 53,801 consumers in the Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Newport News region have selected a plan for the first time or re-enrolled.

Northern Virginia residents sign up at the Arlington Mill Center.

Northern Virginia residents sign up at the Arlington Mill Center.

In Northern Virginia, Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS) uses their 100 volunteers to help consumers enrollduring their “Sign Up Saturday” events. With five locations, NVFS has a broad reach and specializes in helping immigrant communities. Their Certified Application Counselors supported two large Enroll Virginia events at the Arlington Mill center with Delegate Alfonzo Lopez. 

If you or someone you know needs health insurance, visit or call 1-800-318-2596 for assistance 24/7. You can also visit our calendar to find an enrollment event near you. Moreover, you can get weekly updates from Virginia Consumer Voices for Healthcare by signing up on our listserve at:


Chirp, Chirp…


Residents of Prince William County, Virginia fill-out health care applications at the Greater Prince William Community Health Center, Evergreen Terrace Site, in Manassas, Va. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Do you hear those crickets? That is the sound of a successful open enrollment launch. The press has kept mostly quiet about the start of this year’s open enrollment. On November 15th, 2014 opened up for consumers to review, renew and pick new plans and unlike last year, folks were able to enroll starting on the first day.

VCV is working with partners around the state to ensure that Virginians are aware of their options for health coverage.

In Hampton Roads our partner Gaylene Kanoyton of Celebrate Healthcare organized an Enrollfest with over 200 attendees. One consumer Beatrice was able to enroll in a plan for just $66 dollars a month! Additionally, students from William and Mary’s Commonwealth Covered chapter were able assist with Celebrate Healthcare’s enrollment events.

In Northern Virginia, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell visited the Greater Prince William Community Health Center, Evergreen Terrace Site, in Manassas. Certified Applications Counselors with Northern Virginia Family Service and the community health center worked to connect consumers with coverage. According to the Federal Government 500,000 people logged on to while about 100,000 submitted an application.

If you or someone you know needs health insurance visit or call 1-800-318-2596 for assistance 24/7. You can also visit our calendar to find an enrollment event near you.

Wise County: Health care in a horse stall

Richmond Times-Dispatch | Guest Columnist | Allie Atkeson | Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014 10:30 pm

In an effort to better understand how low-income, uninsured Virginians access health care, my co-worker and I drove to Wise County in Southwest Virginia last week to volunteer with Remote Area Medical. RAM was started by philanthropist Stan Brock to “prevent pain and alleviate suffering by providing free quality health care to those who cannot afford it.” RAM — in partnership with the Health Wagon — has a long history of organizing much-needed clinics in Southwest Virginia.

We were joined by more than 1,000 other volunteers, many of whom were from Richmond. The event was held at the Wise County fairgrounds, and volunteers arrived as early as a week in advance to clean barns and horse stalls and set up large tents where Virginians would receive their health care.

When I arrived on Thursday I was assigned the task of sorting needles for dental procedures.

That night, 1,200 people waited in line to receive medical, dental and vision care. The volunteers gathered at the grandstand where we sang “God Bless America” and the national anthem before eating dinner together.

When the clinic started the following day, it could only be described as a war zone.

Thousands rushed into the fairgrounds for their one-day-a-year opportunity to access care. I escorted patients from triage to the various services offered. The majority of patients needed dental care, and the dental operation, put on by the Virginia Dental Association Foundation’s Missions of Mercy clinic, was a machine.

Workers quickly triaged patients and assigned them to their care category: cleanings, fillings or extractions. I was surprised at the number of patients with an orange “extractions” band around their wrist — young adults (my own age) looking to have the majority of their teeth removed and replaced with dentures.

When your last resort is sitting under a tent in the rain, mouth wide open to have your teeth pulled, surely this cannot be the best health care system in the world.

The dental situation was the most shocking: 3.8 million Virginians do not have dental insurance, and unfortunately Virginia’s opportunity to expand coverage to up to 400,000 low-income adults will not provide dental coverage.

However, if the General Assembly chooses to accept federal funding to expand our Medicaid program, 2,300 individuals in Wise County and thousands more in Southwest Virginia could access high quality health care year-round outside of the fairgrounds.

I volunteered for several summers down in Louisiana and Mississippi repairing houses and schools after Hurricane Katrina and would also describe the RAM clinic as disaster relief. It’s a different kind of disaster — one that has occurred over a period of time in the form of job loss, high unemployment and now a public health crisis.

I am proud to be a Virginian and am in many ways a product of the state. I was born here, grew up here, attended public school and a public university in the commonwealth.

But while I was in the Wise County fairgrounds escorting my fellow Virginians to receive medical care in a horse stall, it was hard to feel proud.

Remote Area Medical fills a gap that the assembly could have prevented. Virginians deserve better.

VCV Heads to Wise County

Allie and Erin are about to set off on a trip to Wise County, VA to volunteer at the Remote Area Medical (RAM) clinic that is happening later this week. RAM was started to deliver health care and supplies to struggling nations around the world, “but now 90% of everything [they] do is here in the United States”, according to it’s founder, Stan Brock. Lately, RAM has been getting a lot of press, including a segment on 60 Minutes and The Daily Show. There is also a documentary about the RAM clinics touring the country right now, and you can see the preview here.


We are really excited that VCV staff will have the opportunity to get back to working with people face-to-face, rather than getting bogged down in policy at the General Assembly. While policy advocacy is a vital and interesting part of our work, frankly, we are tired after this marathon General Assembly session. So Allie and I are taking off to Southwest Virginia to help at the RAM clinic to reconnect with our purpose: ensuring that everyone has access to high quality health care. You can follow our journey on Twitter by following @vaconsumervoice and by checking our Facebook page. We are going to be updating with pictures and information as we go along. Also, please check out to learn more about the great work they do across the country.

Lawmakers turned their backs on young adults

Richmond Times-Dispatch

Saturday, June 21, 2014 10:30 pm

I am ashamed of — and outraged by — our General Assembly. It has passed a budget that specifically leaves out any way to close the health insurance coverage gap in Virginia. What lawmakers might have forgotten is how young adults are affected by their decision.

A popular provision of the Affordable Care Act allows young adults to stay on their parent’s insurance plan until age 26. In today’s economy, this provision keeps many high school and college graduates insured while they struggle to find jobs.

But what about the young adults whose parents don’t have health insurance? What about those who turn 26 and still don’t have a job with health insurance? In 27 states and the District of Columbia, these young adults can sign up for Medicaid if they make below a certain income, but not in Virginia. Our legislators made sure of that.

Because of them, 400,000 people continue to worry about making ends meet while paying their health care bills. Because of them, three of my closest friends will remain uninsured for who knows how long. I have changed their names to protect their privacy, but I believe their stories need to be told.

David is severely affected by an undiagnosed illness. His illness is so debilitating that he cannot even work a part-time job, though he worked for as long as he could. His 26th birthday is coming up, and I am afraid of what will happen when he loses his coverage through his parents’ insurance.

Michael is working a part-time job because, even though he is college-educated, even though he has been applying, he doesn’t have a full-time job. He turned 26 and is now without health insurance, despite his employment and educational attainment.

Anna has a seizure disorder and has been uninsured for years. She is paid by the state to care for her mother, who has kidney failure and other health issues. Anna gets some assistance with her health care through VCU Medical Center, but it isn’t health insurance, and it isn’t enough to keep the bills from piling up.

My friends aren’t alone. There are hundreds of thousands of people like them across Virginia, and they are all suffering because of our legislature’s poor decision. David, Michael and Anna are all represented by a senator and delegates who had the opportunity to vote for a budget that closed the coverage gap, but their representatives squandered it.

Closing the coverage gap brings money into Virginia from the federal government, helps to support hospitals and obviously helps the uninsured by giving them the ability to better take care of their health. When the legislators in both the House and the Senate voted for a budget that did not close the coverage gap, they voted against the interests of Virginia.

The stories of my friends, and the other Virginians in the coverage gap, can still have a happy ending. Our state government can still decide to do the right thing for Virginians and accept the offered federal money to close the coverage gap. So to our elected representatives, I say: The lives of my friends, and of hundreds of thousands of Virginians, depend on you.