Category Archives: Blog

Voices from the coverage gap: Mary Richards

Mary Richards lives in the suburbs of Richmond. She shares what it’s like to live in the healthcare coverage gap in Virginia.

Gearing up for 2016 legislative advocacy in Virginia

The 2016 Virginia legislative season is upon us. Committee budget hearings are already in progress across the state, and the opening gavel on the 2016 session falls on Wednesday, January 13.

We’ve got some videos up on our YouTube channel from Del. Manoli Loupassi and legislative advocacy consultant Becky Bowers-Lanier that give you tips on how bills progress through the Assembly, and how to successfully advocate for an issue important to you.

VCV’s focus this year will again be advocating for expanding coverage for all Virginians by supporting Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s call to take the federal funding available to expand Medicaid in the Commonwealth. If you’d like to join in the chorus on that advocacy, here’s our “3 Reasons Virginia Should Close the Coverage Gap” talking points tip sheet for you to use in talking to your legislators and fellow citizens:

3 reasons talking points image

To sing out in a loud and tuneful choir, please join us at the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public PolicyDay for All People event on Wednesday, January 20, 2016 from 8am to 3pm. Tickets are $30 for general admission, $15 for students. The agenda for the event, whose theme is “Racism Beyond the Confederate Flag,” includes a trip to the General Assembly, where attendees can speak directly to their legislators about public policy issues including healthcare, economic and criminal justice, immigration, and redistricting. We’ll be providing lunch, and also hear a keynote presentation by the Rev. Dr. James Forbes, who has been named one of the 12 most effective preachers in the English-speaking world by Newsweek magazine. 

Let’s get to work.

Healthcare access for all: Keeping the faith

Last week, on December 8, our parent organization Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (VICPP) held their Annual Meeting at the historic St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, just steps from Virginia’s State Capitol. 

The event included awarding the 2015 Beacon of Light Award to Virginia Poverty Law Center for their service to the Commonwealth.


Virginia Sen. John Watkins was named Legislator of the Year by the Center, and attended the Annual Meeting to accept the award.


Michael Cassidy, President of The Commonwealth Institute for Public Policy, gave a keynote address in which he discussed the challenges to the Commonwealth caused by racial inequality. On healthcare, he said, 

Medicaid expansion is a huge opportunity to make progress on health care access. This is an issues where we could cover 400,000 more if we lifted eligibility for our state Medicaid program to cover more low income folks. For example, for a single mom with two kids working as a waitress who makes up to about $27,000 a year. We know having access to affordable, quality, healthcare is essential for healthy families, a health workforce and economic security. We have an opportunity but it’s being rejected. And it’s an issue of racial equity. That’s because racial minorities in this state disproportionately have lower incomes and disproportionately lack health insurance. Racial minorities make up more than half of the uninsured poor in Virginia despite representing only one-third of the population. So they would stand to see outsized progress if we closed the coverage gap.

Click here for a full transcript of Mr. Cassidy’s remarks.

VICPP CEO Rev. Charles Swadley opened the meeting with a call for people of all faiths and beliefs to speak with one voice on behalf of the most vulnerable of Virginians.

A short distance from this spot is the historic location of the signing of the Freedom of Religion, a place that gives evidence that America’s First Freedom should always insure not only a tolerance of all faiths, but an embrace of the destiny of our American values that give light in the darkness to all when at other places and in other times freedom to worship may be denied or worse persecuted because of a difference to our own path of belief and worship of a deity or perhaps to none at all. The Virginia Interfaith Center unites our different paths of faith in the pursuit of values today for public policies that offer care for the most vulnerable in our Commonwealth. Even though it has been several hundreds of years since our founding, we still find the divisions of our society crying out as loudly as ever. The rhetoric of division and the voices that discriminate take many forms, but this Center today speaks urgently and strongly for healing and hope. That is why we are here to thank those voices that have the courage to raise a voice to care for the least.

Click here for a full transcript of Rev. Swadley’s remarks.

Rev. David L. Chapman, Interim Executive Minister of the Baptist General Convention of Virginia, closed the meeting with this prayer.

Almighty God, as we conclude this meeting, thank you for all who have come together for the betterment of our fellow human beings. Breathe on our intentions, our good and righteous intentions and give them life. Give us strength for the work ahead. Keep us as only you can and quite us safely to our homes. It is in Your Holy Name I pray.

VICPP Annual Meeting audience

Legislative Advocacy 101: Becky Bowers-Lanier + VA Del. Manoli Loupassi

Legislative advocacy consultant Becky Bowers-Lanier, who helps VCV work on legislative issues important to the individuals and organizations who support our work, gave us the 411 on how effective legislative advocacy works. She shares details on:

  • What an advocacy consultant does
  • How bills get introduced
  • Who are legislators are (they’re citizens, just like us)
  • What’s the deal with the budget?
  • How does a bill become law?
  • How can I follow a bill?

On the receiving (legislative) end, we talked to Virginia Del. Manoli Loupassi about the mechanics of legislation and constituent advocacy. He gave us insights on: 

  • How committees work
  • How constituents can bring an issue to a legislator  
  • Advocacy etiquette 101

Click here for Virginia’s General Assembly website.

Click here for the Virginia Legislative Information System website.

Medicaid expansion explained best through irony

From – we couldn’t improve on this, so here it is in its entirety [note: video is from HBO, so NSFW for language]:

John Oliver wants you to know how important state elections are, even if you don’t live in one of the states set to hold gubernatorial and legislature elections this week.

“There are American lives at stake here,” he said on his late-night show on Sunday. “A number of these elections could determine whether hundreds of thousands of people remain in or even fall into what’s known as the Medicaid gap.”

Under Obamacare, the federal government was supposed to subsidize health insurance for people above 138 percent of the poverty level. Anyone below that was supposed to be eligible for Medicaid. If that required states to expand Medicaid, the federal government would pay for it: The first few years, the federal government would cover the entire cost of the expansion. Over time, the federal government’s payments would be phased down to 90 percent of the cost, where it would remain. (To get a sense of how good of a deal that is, the federal government typically paid for about 57 percent of a state’s entire Medicaid program before Obamacare.)

At first, the Medicaid expansion was essentially mandatory under Obamacare. But in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government was acting in a coercive manner, and the expansion was made voluntary, so states could decide for themselves if they wanted to expand the program.

Many states — notably Texas and Florida — have so far opted not to. These states don’t pay for Medicaid for individual adults unless that person is below 44 percent of the federal poverty level. That means individual adults in these states living between 44 percent and 100 percent of the federal poverty level can get less of a subsidy on his or her health insurance than someone living above poverty and eligible for subsidies from Obamacare’s insurance marketplaces.

The Medicaid coverage gap.
Kaiser Family Foundation

“Twenty states have so far declined to expand Medicaid, leaving over 3 million people in the Medicaid gap — people in the illogical situation of not making enough money to receive government assistance,” Oliver said, referencing a Kaiser Family Foundation report.

This year, two state elections could help decide the fate of the Medicaid program. In Virginia, the state legislature, which is the main hurdle toward expanding Medicaid, is being voted on. And in Kentucky, Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin earliervowed to undo the state’s existing expansion if he wins.

These kinds of state decisions are why Tuesday’s election and others like it seriously matter, even if they don’t get as much attention from the media as a whole. “So on Tuesday, even if you don’t live in a state holding an election, spare a thought for the people who do,” Oliver said, “because the results may ultimately affect the health of half a million people.”