Governor McAuliffe, Mayor Sessoms Offer Bipartisan Support for Closing the Coverage Gap
Governor Terry McAuliffe, Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms, and Cox Communications Vice President of General Operations in Virginia Gary McCollum on Thursday urged members of both parties in the General Assembly to work together to negotiate a budget that closes the health care coverage gap. The bipartisan group – McAuliffe a Democrat, Sessoms a Republican and McCollum an independent – said it is smart business for Virginia to bring its own taxpayer dollars back to the Commonwealth to provide healthcare coverage to up to 400,000 Virginians and lower insurance premiums on Virginia businesses.
“If we close the coverage gap, we can save Virginia taxpayers $1 billion over the next eight years, provide 400,000 Virginians with access to quality health insurance, and create as many as 30,000 jobs,” said Governor McAuliffe. “I put forth a proposal last week that protects Virginia by closing the coverage gap in the form of a pilot program, where we accept federal funds for two years, while the money is 100% paid for, and then we evaluate if we want to continue with the program.
“I believe this plan sets forth a pathway for the House and Senate to come to a compromise and pass a budget that funds our core priorities and brings our federal money home to close the coverage gap. As you can see at this press conference today, this is not about Republican or Democratic politics – it’s about doing the right thing for Virginia families and for our economy.”
Mayor Sessoms continued, “If the General Assembly acts to close the coverage gap, over 14,000 people in Virginia Beach would be eligible for coverage. The business case has been made – now is the time to act. Virginia needs to move forward with a plan to close the coverage gap. Our leaders in Richmond have forged bi-partisan consensus on difficult issues in the past and I know they can do the same now.”
McCollum added, “As a large employer in Virginia, Cox Communications understands that a healthy workforce is our most important asset. Having a strong healthcare provider network in a community is critical to economic development. In the Hampton Roads region, some of the largest employers – outside of the military and other federally funded operations – are Sentara, Riverside and Bon Secours. It is time for our representatives in Richmond to come together, in a non-partisan manner, and find a way to “yes”, a way to a solution that protects taxpayers, draws down federal funds and closes the coverage gap in Virginia.”
Governor McAuliffe last week released a budget that includes a two year pilot program to close the coverage gap and offers Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly a platform for negotiations about how best to structure a plan to use Virginians’ federal tax dollars to cover hundreds of thousands of people and create as many as 30,000 jobs. The McAuliffe budget includes $225 million in savings over the biennium from closing the coverage gap and invests those funds in long-term healthcare spending reserves, a 2% raise for all full-time state employees, and increased funding for the Virginia Retirement System.