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.