Category Archives: Blog

Medicare 50th Anniversary Could Be Bigger Win for Virginians

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Medicare-Medicaid 50th anniversary banner imageOn July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson, as part of his war on poverty, signed the amendment to the Social Security Act that created Medicare and Medicaid. In the 50 years since, millions of Americans have gotten access to healthcare through both programs, helping keep them healthy members of their communities. Because Medicaid eligibility differs from state to state and Virginia has not taken advantage of the opportunity to expand eligibility, there is still work to do to close the coverage gap, currently making quality, affordable healthcare out of reach for up to 400,000 Virginians.

Virginia Consumer Voices for Healthcare is supporting a 50th Anniversary Celebration of Medicare and Medicaid on Wednesday, July 29 from 5 to 7pm at Grandy Village Learning Center, 2971 Kimball Loop, Norfolk, VA and Thursday, July 30, from 12 to 2pm at the Hampton Senior Center, 3501 Kecoughtan Rd., Hampton, VA. Both events will feature US Dept. of Health & Human Services Region 3 Director Joanne Grossi, along with a Coverage to Care panel discussion, and information on 2016 Medicare & Affordable Care enrollment updates.

Some quick facts about how Medicaid expansion would positively impact Virginia:

  • $1.64B in coverage funding would come to Virginia through 2022 (and the Federal government will continue to fund the coverage at 90% of costs thereafter)
  • Medicaid expansion would add 20,000 jobs to the Virginia economy
  • 25,200 military veterans or their families would be able to access care they cannot get through the Veteran’s Administration

In the 50 years that the Medicare and Medicaid programs have been in existence, the federal government has honored its commitment to Medicaid funding for all 50 states. The states themselves must elect to expand Medicaid, however, in order to cover uninsured people who don’t earn enough money to get tax credits to buy health insurance on the state or federal exchanges. Since Virginia’s legislature has not opted to take the Federal money to provide coverage, many of Virginia’s lowest income residents are locked out of access to quality, affordable healthcare and putting pressure on hospital emergency rooms and safety-net clinics to provide care.

Virginia Consumer Voices works to build and sustain a broad-based consumer-focused coalition which includes patients, community and religious organizations, small businesses, organized labor, community health centers, and advocacy organizations to support the expansion and improvement of health care in Virginia. Given our mission, we’d really like to see Virginia close the gap by expanding Medicaid in this 50th anniversary year.

3-Day Healthcare Mission in Wise County July 17-19

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RAM clinic photoWhen you think of remote area medical clinics, you might think of Haiti or Nepal in the aftermath of major earthquakes, or West Africa confronting an ebola outbreak. There are remote areas in need of medical services in the US, too, and one of them – Wise County in southwest Virginia – will be the location of a medical mission event that’s part of a collaboration between The Health Wagon, Remote Area Medical, and the Virginia Dental Association Foundation.

This is the second year for the Wise County event, which last year served 2,244 people – both adults and children – with medical, vision, and dental services valued at almost two million dollars. A major part of our mission at Virginia Consumer Voices for Healthcare is to help all of Virginia’s citizens access quality, affordable care. At the recent event we co-hosted with the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, the leaders of The Health Wagon, Dr. Teresa Gardner and Dr. Paula Hill-Meade, shared stories from their travels throughout Appalachian Virginia in their medical-office-on-wheels, providing care for people with little or no access to quality care in their area.

The Wise County event should attract at least as many people as it did in 2014. There are still opportunities for medical, dental, and vision clinicians to volunteer their services, and there is also a call for educational exhibits. Information on how to sign up for Wise RAM is available here – we’ll post an update about the outcomes from Wise RAM in the coming weeks. If you’ve volunteered for a RAM event, or have received care from The Health Wagon, we’d love to hear your stories.

VCV Statement on King vs. Burwell Supreme Court Ruling

We are pleased that during this 50th anniversary year since the passage of the Voting Rights Act and the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, another landmark action to promote social justice has been taken. Today the Supreme Court released its decision on King v. Burwell, the case that considered whether those who live in states which operate under the federal health insurance marketplace would continue to receive subsidies.

The Court affirmed 6-3 that the these subsidies are lawful. Because Virginia participates in the federal marketplace, 286,000 Virginians who depend on those subsidies in order to pay their premiums every month can continue to receive the care that they need to stay healthy. The ruling confirms what we have known all along – the law was designed to provide a tax credit to any American who qualifies, regardless of the type of Marketplace they use.

We must now all turn our attention to the 400,000 Virginians who do not have access to affordable health insurance.

June 5th: Marching for Rural Care

In 2015, 283 of America’s rural hospitals face the possibility of closing down. To bring attention to the 62 million Americans who rely on rural healthcare, healthcare advocates are walking 283 miles from North Carolina to Washington DC between June 1st and June 15th.

Members of the walk include Adam O’Neal, the Mayor of Belhaven who walked the same route last year to bring attention to a hospital closing in his town. “Our rural hospitals are just as important as any urban medical center. When hospitals close, emergency rooms close and that means needless deaths — our children, family members, veterans, and neighbors. We have to stand up for ourselves and The Walk will get Washington’s and the nation’s attention” said O’Neal.

To follow the walk and to find events in Virginia, visit thewalknctodc.com.

May 15th: Nation Women’s Health Week

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Every year National Women’s Health Week commences on Mother’s Day to encourage women to make health a priority in their life. At VCV our focus on implementation of the Affordable Care Act and closing the coverage gap are critical to ensuring that women across Virginia have access to necessary medical care. Below are two examples of how our work is vital to women’s health.

 

The Affordable Care Act

When the ACA passed, Mary Bennett of Charlottesville, VA was eager to sign up for a plan in the Marketplace. A hourly worker for the state, Mary was not covered by her employer and paid $700 a month for a private health insurance plan with a $7,500 deductible. A two time cancer survivor, Mary advocated for health reform and quickly met with a Navigator through Enroll Virginia once the Marketplace opened. With multiple chronic illnesses, Mary knew that she needed a plan that would allow her to see specialists often for an affordable price. She selected a silver plan, which has a higher premium than the least costly plan but offers more coverage. Mary now only pays $350 a month for health insurance with a $2,500 deductible.

Mary is one example of the nearly 385,000 Virginians that have benefited from the ACA. She says that “under the ACA my policy is more affordable so I’m happier and less stressed.”

 

All ACA plans support women’s health by:

  • Not charging women more for plans just because of their gender
  • Including maternity care and newborn care as essential health benefits
  • Covering preventative services like mammograms and pap smears without cost sharing

 

Closing the Coverage Gap

If Virginia legislators decided to accept federal funding to expand our Medicaid program, 112,642 Virginia women of reproductive age¹ could have access to health insurance. Additionally, a recent study by VCU’s Massey Cancer Center found that women in non-expansion states like Virginia “are less likely to receive potentially lifesaving breast and cervical cancer screenings by 7.9 percent and 4.9 percent, respectively.”² Closing the coverage gap would allow thousands of Virginia women to access necessary medical care to stay healthy and prevent chronic disease. To help uninsured Virginia women access health insurance, contact your legislator and encourage them to close the coverage gap today!

 

¹ Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia

² State Medicaid Expansion Decisions and Disparities in Women’s Cancer Screening, Lindsay M. Sabik, PhD, , Wafa W. Tarazi, MHPA, Cathy J. Bradley, PhD

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