*Watch the event here*
[Yesterday], former House Democratic Leader David J. Toscano – who led his caucus to successfully expand Medicaid in Virginia even as Republicans held power – and Virginia Beach residents who attended President Biden’s speech joined Protect Our Care Virginia to discuss the GOP’s real threats to slash Medicaid and dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA). For months, Republicans have promised to use their House majority to defund Medicare and Medicaid, and repeal the Affordable Care Act and the Inflation Reduction Act rather than make companies and the wealthy pay their fair share. Congresswoman Jen Kiggans even issued a response to the president’s speech that failed to say whether she would protect Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.
Speakers described how the Republican plan would be catastrophic for Virginians and disproportionately impact children, rural communities, people with disabilities, and people of color. Speakers also discussed new polling showing widespread support for Medicaid among voters, as well as significant opposition to cuts in Medicaid funding.
Learn more about the latest Republican attacks on health care here. Access a fact sheet breaking down how the Republican budget would likely impact Virginians health care here.
“That power of 49 made a difference,” said Toscano, referring to Virginia House Democrats’ successful effort to pass Medicaid expansion while Republicans held a slim majority. “Enough Republicans decided to vote with us so we could get some 500,000 Virginians access to Medicaid. Now that’s being threatened. It’s being threatened at the federal level by cuts in the federal budget being proposed by Republicans. And that’s going to affect Virginians in one of two ways. One – people will be taken off the Medicaid enrollment, and so they won’t have access to quality health care. Or two – there will be cuts in the actual monies that the feds are providing to the state governments. And so the options there are either to cut Medicaid eligibility or to cut some other program that may be beneficial to Virginians. So it both has a human consequence and a budgetary consequence that will then bleed over to the human consequence.”
“I lived for 20 years worrying about health care coverage,” said Virginia Beach resident Martha Smith Thereault, who shared her story of being a single mother who did not have employer-based insurance since she was an independent contractor. “When the Affordable Care Act came through … I was 64 years old, and it was a godsend. At the time I was paying $600 a month for a $10,000 deductible policy that essentially I didn’t know if it would cover anything. I lived in fear that something would happen and wipe out everything as it so easily can do with the cost of health care.”
She was joined by her son Travis Thereault, a Medicaid recipient with Down’s Syndrome, in attending President Biden’s speech in Virginia Beach. “We were fortunate, we were blessed to be able to be there to see President Biden and sit close enough to the stage where he did his rounds at the end, we met him, and I was able to thank him and President Obama for the health care that they have provided thus far, and he assured me that they’re not done yet. I’m encouraged to hear that this administration is going to fight for health care. I hope that the public will wake up to the fact that it’s not a done deal. That it could be taken away from us.”
Michael Feggans, a veteran and small business owner who served as a health care management professional and health care IT professional in the Air Force, also had the opportunity to see President Biden in Virginia Beach.
“I really appreciated President Biden for being here, especially in Virginia Beach, my hometown, for not only speaking on the importance of strengthening health care and our health care systems and our safety nets, but I really appreciated that he called out those, especially those elected officials, who are trying to cut and sometimes eliminate these programs.”
Feggans also noted the importance of state legislatures in ensuring access to health care, stating, “That’s where a lot of the battles are happening, especially for Medicaid … That’s why we need to continue to focus on protecting and expanding health care, especially the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid, and not try to find ways to truncate it.”
David Nygaard, a small business owner in Virginia Beach who also attended the president’s speech, said, “I had a massive heart attack in 2016, and my CPA had recommended I talk with a health care navigator, which I did, and I was surprised to find that the Affordable Care Act was really helpful. Because of the experience I had with the heart attack, it really made me uninsurable. And being a small business man, I had gone from having 70 employees to going back to a small solo practice and found myself not with the ability to have a group. The Affordable Care Act was something that came along that helped me as a sole practitioner/small business man that I could afford health care.”
Nygaard added, “My son was also born with congenital heart issues and he was able to hop on my plan and was able to get care even though he had that pre-existing condition. For us, it was really important to have that ability 1) to get past the pre-existing condition, but then 2) to be able to have something that we could afford. For us, it was a big, big step. And I was one of those guys that was very skeptical of the program, but I came around to appreciate it, particularly in its practice. That’s why I’m in favor of supporting it.”
You can watch the event here, and learn more about what the Congressional Republican agenda means for Virginians here.