Column: Helping Virginians Get Health Coverage

Column: Helping Virginians Get Health Coverage

I am happy to say that in our 2022 legislative session in Richmond, we are continuing to make a difference in the health and lives of Virginians. We have accomplished much during my time in the Senate of Virginia and are continuing to improve things on a bipartisan basis.

During my first term as a Virginia Senator from 2008-2011, many Virginians, about 15 to 16 percent of our population, had no health insurance. Many, if not most, of them had no medical home or personal doctor. They did not get preventive care. When pain got bad, they might go to a hospital emergency department, but even then they often did not get necessary follow-up care. Thousands got their care from annual three day events with volunteers in fields and barns in Southwest Virginia.

My education and professional background is in health care. In the legislature, I have used my knowledge and commitment to help make large strides in getting health care coverage and health care services for those who used to lack both insurance and a place to get regular care. We have been largely successful. The percent of our population who now are uninsured is less than half of what it was just over a decade ago.

Since 2014, many families have gotten private health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Several hundred thousand modest income adults who did not have health insurance from their jobs have gotten Medicaid Expansion coverage from the 2018 budget. Two years later, we added dental care coverage for over half a million adults, many of whom had not seen a dentist in decades.

I am working hard on expanding private health insurance. For the third year in a row, I am patron of a bill to authorize creation of a health care coverage plan for real estate agents. Although most real estate agents have good incomes, data show that 20 percent do not have health insurance. Most real estate agents are not eligible to receive coverage through their real estate companies because they are 1099 contractors rather than employees.

My bill will permit the state Realtors association to develop a plan for their members. It will be a quality plan, covering all essential health benefits and pre-existing conditions and having the same protections as Affordable Care Act health insurance plans. It cannot discriminate and will have the same rates for the whole state. 

I consistently got near unanimous support in the Senate for my bills to let Realtors have a health plan the past two years but ran into problems after the legislation left the Senate. This year, I got unanimous approval in the Senate and have worked with a Republican colleague in the House of Delegates who handily got the same bill passed there. This will become law and will help many Realtors get health care coverage.

I also have a bill to address an issue regarding a reinsurance plan that we authorized last year and that will substantially lower monthly premiums to individuals and families who buy their health insurance on the state exchange. My bill and a companion bill in the House have both passed unanimously.

We are helping Virginians get health care coverage and needed health care services. I enjoy my job and am happy to be a leader on this. I will keep working to help Virginians get needed care. 

Please contact me at if you have questions or need help with an issue.