Virginia Senate Democrats Call for Special Session to Create Health Insurance Exchange

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    Democratic Senators call on the Governor to put Virginians’ health care above partisan politics

    Today, the Virginia Senate Democrats called for a special legislative Session to create a state health insurance exchange as provided for under the Affordable Care Act.

    Senator Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax), Democratic Leader, said, “The Governor needs to call the legislature back into Session now to get a Virginia-based health exchange created. Virginians deserve an exchange that suits their specific needs, not a one-size-fits-all solution from the federal government. I can’t understand how the self-proclaimed party of limited government would allow the federal government to impose a generic exchange on Virginians. We are ready to get to work, and I hope the Governor is too.”

    Senator A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico), chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus, said, “The time for action is right now. Governor McDonnell should follow the recommendation of his own expert panel and call the legislature back into session. Virginians have different needs than Texans or Minnesotans, and they deserve an exchange that suits those specific needs.  Democrats stand ready to get to work now to improve access to health care for thousands of Virginians.”

    In 2011, the legislature passed HB 2434, which expressed the bipartisan consensus that Virginia should create its own health insurance exchange. The Governor’s own Virginia Health Insurance Reform Initiative stated that a Virginia-based health insurance exchange would be far better than a federally run exchange. And Gov. McDonnell has himself said, “We ought to have a state-based exchange.”

    But for nearly two years, Gov. McDonnell and his Republican allies in the legislature have made excuses, putting the health care of thousands of Virginia families at risk.

    * Excuse #1: In 2011, Gov. McDonnell claimed that Virginia should wait for the Supreme Court’s judgment of the ACA’s constitutionality.

    * Excuse #2: In the summer of 2012, Gov. McDonnell cited uncertainty over the outcome of the presidential election as a reason to delay, saying, “four months from now I may not need” to create a health care exchange, were Mitt Romney to win the presidency.

    Both excuses were justified with an explanation: “There is plenty of time to act” in a special session. As recently as February 2012 the Governor stated that a special session could be convened if his excuses ran out.

    Now, with deadlines looming, Gov. McDonnell says, “The only logical option for us is to use the federal option.” The Governor’s endless delays have backed Virginia into a corner. We need to act immediately to create a state-run exchange.

    Democrats were ready in 2011. Democrats remained ready in 2012. Governor McDonnell should put partisan politics aside and call a special session. Democrats will gladly work with him to create a state-based exchange that works for all Virginians.