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2019-3-26

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ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING CONTINUES TO DEFEND THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT IN COURT

RICHMOND (March 25, 2019) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a coalition of 21 attorneys general in filing an opening brief in Texas v. U.S., defending the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the healthcare of tens of millions of Americans. Today’s brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, argues that every provision of the ACA remains valid. It also details the harm that declaring the ACA invalid would have on the tens of millions of people who rely on it for access to high-quality, affordable healthcare, as well as the broader damage that it would do to the nation’s healthcare system. In June, Attorney General Herring intervened to defend against the suit, leaving him and his colleagues to defend Americans’ healthcare after President Trump switched sides and joined with Republican state attorneys general in trying to strike down the law.

“This politically motivated lawsuit is dangerous, reckless and risks the health of Americans,” said Attorney General Herring. “Millions of Virginians rely on the Affordable Care Act for quality, affordable healthcare and when the Trump Administration refused to defend the ACA in court I knew I had to step in. I will continue to join my colleagues in fighting to make sure that healthcare is not ripped away from Americans.” 

The plaintiffs, two individuals and 18 States led by Texas, filed this lawsuit in February 2018, challenging one provision of the Affordable Care Act—the requirement that individuals maintain health insurance or pay a tax. Texas’ lawsuit came after Congress reduced that tax to zero dollars December 2017. Opponents of the ACA had attempted and failed to repeal the ACA over 70 times since its instatement. The plaintiffs argued that this change made the minimum coverage provision unconstitutional. They further argued that the rest of the ACA could not be “severed” from that one provision, so the entire Act must be struck down.

On December 14, 2018, Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas issued his decision agreeing with the plaintiffs. In response, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues filed a motion to stay the effect of that decision and to expedite resolution of this case. The District Court granted that motion on December 30, 2018. On January 3, 2019, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues continued their legal defense in the ACA and formally filed a notice of appeal, challenging the District Court’s December 14 opinion in the Fifth Circuit.

Today’s filing continues the legal defense of the ACA. In their brief, the attorneys general argue that the plaintiffs do not have standing to challenge the minimum coverage provision, because the individual plaintiffs are not injured by a provision that now offers a lawful choice between buying insurance and paying a zero-dollar tax. The attorneys general further argue that the state plaintiffs also lack standing, because there is no evidence that the amended provision will require them to spend more money. Lastly, the District Court wrongly concluded that the minimum coverage provision was unconstitutional, and even if it were there would be no legal basis for also declaring the rest of the ACA invalid—including its provisions expanding Medicaid, reforming Medicare, and providing protections to individuals with preexisting health conditions.

The brief also highlights the consequences of upholding the district court’s decision, which would wreak havoc on the entire American healthcare system and risk lives in every state. If affirmed, the district court’s decision would affect nearly every American, including:

  • 133 million Americans, including 17 million kids, with preexisting health conditions;

  • Young adults under 26 years of age, who are covered under a parent’s health plan;

  • More than 12 million Americans who received coverage through Medicaid expansion;

  • 12 million seniors who receive a Medicare benefit to afford prescription drugs; and

  • Working families who rely on tax credits and employer-sponsored plans to afford insurance.

If successful, Texas’ lawsuit would harm Virginia by:

  • Halting Medicaid expansion, which was signed into law in Virginia last year, with the goal of covering an additional 400,000 Virginians;

  • Allowing insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or charge them more;

  • Allowing insurance companies to discriminate against women by charging them higher premiums;

  • Taking away seniors’ prescription drug discounts;

  • Ending $1.15 billion in tax credits that helped 335,000 Virginians afford insurance in 2017 alone;

  • Ending the healthcare exchange where more than 410,000 Virginians purchased their healthcare in 2017;

  • Stripping funding from our nation’s public health system, including work to combat the opioid epidemic; and

  • Ending billions in federal aid for healthcare, including $458 million in FY 2019 and $1.9 billion in FY 2020.

Yolanda Talley, VCU Health CMH February Team Member of the Month

Vice President of Professional Services, Todd Howell; Chief Executive Officer, W. Scott Burnette; Phlebotomist, Yolanda Talley; and Director of Laboratory Services, Christina Duke (L to R).

When you walk around thinking that a smile makes a day, good things tend to follow. The February VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital team member of the month is living proof.

Yolanda Talley, a phlebotomist with the CMH Lab, has earned repeated high praise from patients and staff she interacts with, according to Christina Duke, manager of the lab.

“Employees like Yolanda are why people choose CMH.” Christina said. “Yolanda has received 12 outpatient compliments in the past two months.  They even state she sometimes helps them to their cars!”

One such compliment earned Yolanda the first-ever team member of the month award for a lab employee.

According to Christina, the patient said, “Yolanda was wonderful. She was so polite and I didn’t have to wait.”

Yolanda has been with CMH for the past four and half years and works throughout CMH collecting blood samples from patients.

“I love my job,” she said. “I get to meet new people all the time and see different faces. I get to do the hard job (drawing blood).”

Yolanda works with patients in the emergency department, ICU, PACU, Acute Care, and in the Hundley Center.

It’s her fantastic attitude that Christina loves. “I tell all my staff that we are the face of the lab when we interact with patients and giving patients a great experience makes everyone’s day better.”

Yolanda is a giver. During her off time from work, she is the jayvee girls basketball coach at Park View High School, an assistant coach to the varsity team and an assistant track coach for the Dragons in the spring.

Yolanda has two children, Nyjay, her high school age daughter, and Elijan, a fourth grade. In her spare time from work, coaching and parenting, Yolanda is a movie junkie.

Other team members nominated in February were: Adelyn Beiler and Caitlin Crowder from Acute Care; Sean DeVaughn from Environmental Services; Amy Lynch from Care Management; Megan Mull from the Emergency Department; Joyce Paynter from Lab; and John Watson from Physical Therapy.

In addition to the award certificate, Yolanda received a STAR Service lapel pin, letter of commendation from Administration, a $40 gift certificate, and a parking place of her choice for the month.

 

Assembly OKs Limited No-excuse Absentee Voting in 2020

By Kal Weinstein, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Beginning in fall of 2020, Virginia will have more than Election Day. It will be more like Election Week.

Voters will go to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, to cast ballots for president and other political offices. But for the first time, Virginians will be able to vote early that year — from Oct. 24 through Oct. 31 — without needing to provide an excuse.

That is the effect of legislation passed Thursday by the General Assembly and sent to Gov. Ralph Northam, who has expressed support for the measure.

Currently, Virginia is one of 16 states that require an excuse to vote absentee. To cast an early ballot in the commonwealth, voters must provide one of a dozen reasons for voting absentee, such as having a health, religious, school or business reason that prevents the person from voting on Election Day.

That would change under SB 1026, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Lionel Spruill of Chesapeake, and HB 2790, introduced by Republican Del. Nick Rush of Montgomery County. On Thursday, the Senate joined the House in passing the final versions of both bills.

The legislation “allows for any registered voter to vote by absentee ballot in person beginning on the second Saturday immediately preceding any election in which he is qualified to vote without providing a reason or making prior application for an absentee ballot,” according to a summary by the Legislative Information System. The absentee voting period ends on the Saturday immediately before the election.

In addition, Virginia still will offer absentee voting the existing way — beginning on the 45th day before an election. But until a week and a half before the election, voters must provide an excuse to get their absentee ballots.

When lawmakers convened in January, Northam urged them to approve no-excuse absentee voting. He called the existing law “arbitrary.”

Spruill said people do not feel comfortable having to provide an excuse about why they are voting absentee.

“You’d be surprised at how many folks come down and have to give an excuse as to why they’re voting early,” he said. “There should be no excuse to vote.”

Spruill said the legislation might reduce long lines to vote at polling precincts on Election Day.

Del. Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax, co-sponsored both the House and Senate bills. She said passage of the legislation is a “victory for the whole commonwealth,” even though it will not take effect until 2020.

“It’s about time. The reason this was a bipartisan success is because citizens of Virginia have been pushing for these kinds of reforms for many years,” Kory said.

Report Shows Geographic Disparities in Health in Virginia

By Rosemarie O’Connor, Capital News Service

RICHMOND -- It's a five-hour drive from Manassas Park to Galax -- but in terms of life expectancy, the two cities are 25 years apart.

Residents of Manassas Park, a city of about 16,500 people in the Washington suburbs, live to 91 years old on average. But residents of Galax, a  city of about 6,600 people in Southwest Virginia, typically live to just 66.

That wide gap in life expectancy reflects the disparities in health outcomes in Virginia, according to the latest County Health Rankings from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, one of the nation’s largest public health philanthropic organizations.  

For years, wealthy localities in Northern Virginia like Loudoun, Arlington and Fairfax counties have had the best health outcomes in the state while poor communities such as Petersburg, south of Richmond, and Galax and Covington in Southwest Virginia have some of the worst.

Health outcomes represent how long people live and how healthy people feel. They can be affected by health behaviors like smoking, diet and drug use; access to medical care; social and economic factors such as education and income; and physical environment like air quality.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation drew its data from a variety of sources including the National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The rankings help localities understand how various factors affect people’s health, according to the report. It said “connected and supportive communities, good schools, stable jobs, and safe neighborhoods” are the foundation for achieving a long and healthy life.

Poverty, lack of access to grocery stores and smog or other pollution can all exacerbate negative health outcomes.

Differences in health outcomes “do not arise on their own,” the report said. “Often, they are the result of policies and practices at many levels that have created deep‐rooted barriers to good health.”

These include "unfair bank lending practices, school funding based on local property taxes, and discriminatory policing and prison sentencing,” the report states.

The report emphasizes that “stable and affordable housing as an essential element of healthy communities.”

“Our homes are inextricably tied to our health,” Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the foundation, said in releasing the report.

“It’s unacceptable that so many individuals and families face barriers to health because of what they have to spend on housing.”

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