How Virginia laws affect women: Healthcare
By Keya Vakil
June 18, 2019

Check out the rest of our series on how Virginia laws affect women here.

2019 saw Virginia’s Medicaid expansion program enacted and enrollment has already exceeded the state’s expectations.

So far, 290,133 low-income Virginians have enrolled in Medicaid and 60%, or 175,203 of them are women.

The expansion has transformed the lives of women and while a handful of Republicans helped every Virginia Democrat expand Medicaid, the GOP continued to restrict women’s access to reproductive healthcare.

Beyond that, the General Assembly did pass a handful of bills this year to help Virginia women, including a bill that removes the age limit for private insurance coverage for individuals with autism, a bill that will help thousands of mothers (and fathers) pay for their children’s expensive treatments.

2019 also saw the implementation of a 2018 law that finally gave nurse practitioners the right to practice autonomously, without a collaborating physician. The law particularly benefits women, as 4,114 of Virginia’s 4,478 (or 92%) nurse practitioners are female, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The General Assembly also passed HB 2546, which will create a maternal mortality review team within the Virginia Department of Health. The bipartisan bill will require the DOH to study the rate of pregnancy-related deaths in the Commonwealth, with the goal of reducing maternal mortality rates in the state. The issue is particularly pressing for black women, who are roughly three times as likely as white mothers to die during or near childbirth.

On the other hand, the General Assembly failed to pass bills that would have created a medical leave program and two others that would have banned health insurance plans from imposing restrictions or denying coverage to individuals because of their gender identity or transgender status.

All things considered, 2018 and 2019 were a significant leap forward for women’s healthcare in Virginia. This year’s General Assembly elections may determine if that progress continues or if the state moves backwards.

  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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