Home Healthcare Video: Delegates Mark Sickles, Rodney Willett, and Kannan Srinivasan Join Advocates and...

Video: Delegates Mark Sickles, Rodney Willett, and Kannan Srinivasan Join Advocates and Protect Our Care Virginia to Celebrate Sixth Anniversary of Medicaid Expansion and Its Impact on Rural Virginia


From Protect Our Care:

Delegates Sickles, Willett, and Srinivasan Join Advocates and Protect Our Care Virginia to Celebrate Sixth Anniversary of Medicaid Expansion and Its Impact on Rural Virginia

Democratic Legislators Will Protect Medicaid Funding in Ongoing State Budget Negotiations

Medicaid Faces Existential Threat if Affordable Care Act is Repealed, as 700,000 Virginians Have Enrolled in Coverage Since Expansion

*Watch the event HERE*

RICHMOND, Va.  – House Health and Human Services Chair Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax), Chair of the Select Committee on Advancing Rural and Small Town Health Care Rodney Willett (D-Henrico) and former Chair of the State Board of Medical Assistance Services Delegate Kannan Srinivasan (D-Loudoun) on Friday joined advocates, storytellers, and Protect Our Care Virginia for a virtual press conference celebrating the sixth anniversary of Medicaid expansion and the seventh annual Medicaid Awareness Month.

More than 2 million people across the entire Commonwealth are served by the program, including 700,000 who enrolled thanks to Virginia’s decision to expand Medicaid in 2018. Recent policy wins have further extended Medicaid services to include dental care, postpartum care, and behavioral health services. 

“There are very few programs that have the impact on people’s lives that Medicaid has,” said Chairman Sickles, who helped lead negotiation efforts to pass expansion in 2018. “And that’s why in my role as the Chair of the Health Human Services Committee and also on Appropriations, I have fought to move this forward and not backwards, and realize that it’s a long term proposition that we need to make progress on every single year.”

Speakers discussed the impact of Medicaid on rural communities, particularly as the Select Committee on Advancing Rural and Small Town Health Care prepares to commence its work next week. At the beginning of the legislative session, Delegate Willett was appointed by Speaker Don Scott to chair the special bipartisan committee that is tasked with proposing five actionable legislative recommendations to address unmet health care needs in rural Virginia. Chairman Sickles and Delegate Srinivasan also serve on the committee, which kicks off its work by touring health facilities in Tazewell April 29, followed by an 11 a.m. public meeting on April 30 at Southwest Virginia Community College in Cedar Bluff.

Speaking to how to best address disparities in rural health care, Chairman Willett said, “Medicaid is absolutely part of the equation, and something that we need to continue to look at. Forty-five percent of the health coverage in small towns and rural areas comes from Medicaid right now. It’s a huge percentage of folks being cared for by that. Medicaid is helping to close this health care disparity gap that we have. Medicaid expansion cut the uninsured rates in those areas by more than fifty percent.”

“Virginia is one of the best-run Medicaid programs in the country,” said Delegate Srinivasan. “The Medicaid program saved so many lives in Virginia, and made a considerable change in people’s lives, particularly in rural Virginia. As a former chair, I can vouch for you the amount of care and the diligence and the professionalism that goes on in the Medicaid staff to bring the best quality health care for Virginians. Not only is Virginia one of the best-run Medicaid programs nationally, our admin cost is less than two percent. Just think about that for a second less than two percent. And they’ve been consistent for many, many years of spending very little on admin costs, which means almost 98 cents per dollar goes to patient care.”

Jill Hanken, retired health policy attorney from the Virginia Poverty Law Center, reflected on the work that a coalition of advocates put into passing Medicaid expansion, including The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis and the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, among many others.

“In Virginia, it took us five full years of advocacy and lobbying to bring about expansion; it was an effort that involved many, many advocates working together in our coalition that we called the Healthcare for All Virginians Coalition to bring this about,” said Hanken. “We worked really hard to educate legislators about Medicaid and about what expansion would mean for the state. We published lots of materials to focus on the stories of adults who fell into a Medicaid gap because they were too poor to get coverage through the Affordable Care Act, but had too much money to qualify for the current Medicaid program … the success [of expansion] has been unbelievable. The enrollment exceeded all of our expectations.”

Leslie Mehta, a resident of Chesterfield County who is the mom to a child diagnosed with Rett Syndrome, shared the importance of Medicaid to her family.

“My husband and I had private insurance, but Medicaid became a lifeline support as a supplement. Because of Medicaid, we were able to have our daughter be in private daycare. Her first daycare told her that they didn’t have the resources to be able to help her and support her and adequately care for her. Once we were approved for Medicaid, Medicaid allowed for us to have individualized attendants and individualized attendant care that stayed with her throughout her daycare day.”

Mehta added that while private insurance did not cover her daughter’s Eyegaze device, which empowered her to communicate, Medicaid did.

“It was because of Medicaid that I got to hear for the first time, ‘I love you mommy.’ We were able to go to the park because Medicaid was there to help supplement and provide a specialized stroller for her. Medicaid made all of this and more possible. Medicaid has been a lifeline of support for our family, and I think it’s necessary for families across the Commonwealth for those who like myself and my family need to bridge the gap in health care services that private insurance just isn’t covering for their disabled child.”

Speakers also discussed the efforts of President Biden and Democrats in both Congress and Richmond to strengthen and protect Medicaid, including through ongoing state budget negotiations. The bipartisan budget passed by the General Assembly and blocked by Governor Youngkin makes significant improvements to Virginia’s Medicaid program. The governor now has a renewed opportunity to work with the General Assembly to agree to a budget that maintains the robust investments in Medicaid that were originally sent to his desk.

“We’re going to increase Medicaid rates in this budget, we’re going to oppose the governor’s plan to cut our increase in nursing home care in half, and we’re going to pay our personal care attendants what they deserve,” said Chairman Sickles. “We’ve set aside money for the technology part as well because we’ve been through the Medicaid unwinding. We had over two million Virginians on Medicaid, and we’re addressing every single one of them to see if they’re still eligible.”

Finally, Protect Our Care Virginia State Director Katie Baker said, “as we celebrate Medicaid Awareness Month, we also must be watchful of the continuing threats to Medicaid, especially if Donald Trump gets his way and the Affordable Care Act is repealed. We are thankful for the health care champions on this call as well as for the tenacity of President Biden and Democrats in Congress who are committed to protecting it for the millions of Americans who rely on it.”

You can watch the full event HERE, and learn more about Medicaid’s impact on rural communities HERE.


Protect Our Care is dedicated to making high-quality, affordable and equitable health care a right, and not a privilege, for everyone in America. We educate the public, influence policy, support health care champions and hold politicians accountable. We fight to expand access to affordable, high-quality health insurance, lower the cost of health care for individuals and families, and reduce inequities in health care based on gender, income, race, ethnicity, geography, or sexual preference.


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