Virginians continue to say health care is one of the top issues they will consider when casting their ballot in November, according to a Roanoke College poll released this week. Democrats have taken notice, and are hammering home to voters that many Republicans in the General Assembly voted to do away with protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
The Virginia House Democratic Caucus has been running ads against Speaker Kirk Cox and Del. Chris Jones that criticize the two Republicans for their opposition to the Affordable Care Act. That includes a vote in February 2017 to undo the law entirely in Virginia, including the rules that prevent insurers from rejecting people with pre-existing conditions, if the full federal law was also repealed.
That bill, introduced by Del. Kathy Bryon (R-Lynchburg), passed the House of Delegates and Senate with Republican votes, but was ultimately vetoed by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.
It wasn’t the last time Republicans would pass a bill that would make it harder for the more than 3.4 million Virginians living with a pre-existing condition to get insurance. The General Assembly passed a bill this year to allow insurers to sell so-called “short-term” plans that are also not required to cover people with pre-existing conditions.
These plans, which have been backed by President Trump, do not have carry essential health benefits, like maternity care or prescription drug coverage. Gov. Northam vetoed the legislation backing short-term plans, saying they would “discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions.”
Critics of short-term plans also argue that they are intended to undermine the ACA by drawing healthy people out of the more comprehensive insurance pools, thus causing sick individuals’ premiums to rise. That runs counter to Republicans claims, made by people like Del. Chris Stolle (R-Virginia Beach), that they are working to make health care more affordable.
Given the importance of health care to voters and the fact that control of the House and Senate up for grabs in November, attention on these votes likely won’t fade anytime soon.