Pragmatic Public Option is Postponed After Policy-makers Put Profit Over People

The bill that would create quality healthcare affordable plans for the millions of uninsured Virginians

Press Release / August 25, 2020

Contact: Jowen H. Ortiz Cintrón, jowen@samirah4virginia.com

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In the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic that has killed over 2500 Virginians, the Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee of the Virginia House of Delegates voted to table (see 11:44:21) Del. Ibraheem S. Samirah’s HB 5083; a bill that would create a Medicare-priced Public Option available on Virginia’s ACA marketplace, creating quality healthcare plans for purchase that are truly affordable for the millions of Virginians that are uninsured and underinsured.

During the committee hearing, two members of the committee said we need to build consensus with stakeholders, but neither Delegate Samirah (D-86) nor the four organizations’ representatives that had signed up and waited for hours to testify in support of his bill were allowed to speak in response to such assumptions of lack of consensus that misled the discussion.

“Respectfully, I want to know, consensus with who? Private insurers who have doubled their profits as over 200,000 Virginians have lost their health insurance? We already have a consensus, but our consensus is with the working families of Virginia, not private healthcare corporations. The stakeholders we work with are those Virginians disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 public health crisis: low-income Virginians, and Brown and Black Virginian lives that are on the line, not the private healthcare companies board members who are worried about their bottom line.”

“The dissonance between the for-profit system and the public health reality on the ground speaks to how broken our system is. It’s just another symptom of the disease of corporate greed, and it certainly can’t be treated with more private industry solutions.”

“I’m worried about the Virginians who fall in the insurance gap between Medicaid and private insurance. The pandemic is not going away, and after today’s result in the Health, Welfare, and Institutions Committee my constituents, as well as roughly two million other Virginians will continue to suffer from the un-and-underinsurance problem in the Commonwealth.”

During the first day of Virginia’s House of Delegates’ special session, Del. Samirah tried presenting the bill but was stopped twice. Additionally, in today’s hearing, Samirah was threatened to be muted and, subsequently, muted by the committee chairman while presenting his bills. 

“Virginians expect us, their state legislature line of defense, to provide relief on healthcare costs in light of the Federal Government’s failure to act. They expect us, in this historic moment, to act without any delays. And they expect us to put their interests ahead of private insurance companies that have doubled their profits amidst and as a result of a global pandemic.”

The bill has the support of different social organizations from Virginia, including Virginia Interfaith Center, CASA In Action, Virginia Organizing, and National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC). Even though the representatives of the organizations that support the bill expected to testify during the bill hearing, the committee only allowed one person from the opposition to the bill to testify. That sole testimony came from Doug Gray, a lobbyist on behalf of the conglomerate of private insurance companies in Virginia, the Virginia Association of Health Plans.

HB 5083 would allow Virginians to buy into Medicaid, creating an affordable alternative to the millions of Virginians who do not qualify for Medicaid but are unable to afford adequate insurance, without the need to raise taxes. Del. Samirah introduced HB5083 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on public health.

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