Because of the dedication of AHA supporters and volunteers statewide, it was a landmark year of public policy achievements for cardiovascular health in the Commonwealth of Virginia. These successes demonstrate that constituents have the power to make significant change when they join in the fight against heart disease and stroke.
“As a stroke survivor and community advocate in Hampton Roads, it is important for me to lend my voice to policies that help improve the lives of cardiovascular disease patients, make access to healthy foods and affordable healthcare easier for everyone across Virginia,” said Virginia Advocacy Committee Chair Tamika Quinn.
Our 2019-2020 Virginia Advocacy wins include:
Emergency Response Workers are Better Equipped
- Telecommunicator CPR and Emergency Medical Dispatch for all Virginia 911 dispatchers are required over the next 2 and 4 years respectively.
- All dispatchers will have the necessary training to provide CPR and 40+ other medical emergency instructions via the phone.
More Virginians Have Access to Heart Healthy Foods
- We helped create the Virginia Food Access Investment Program and Fund which will invest in healthy food projects and businesses and help food-insecure Virginians buy nutritious fruits and vegetables.
- The state appropriated $1.25M for program funding and 1 full-time staff member within the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
- The funding will be available to support innovative food retail projects, grocery stores, farmer’s markets, or mobile markets in food insecure areas.
Virginians Will Have Better and More Comprehensive Insurance Coverage Options
- Virginia will be moving to a state-based exchange, which will allow Virginia to have greater control over enrollment and education, as well as save the state money.
- These savings create opportunities to reinvest back into the Virginia market, by increasing consumer education and enrollment support tools, or by offering increased subsidies to buyers, which increases enrollment. All these options work to lower premiums and stabilize the insurance market.
- As of 7/1/2021, Short-Term Limited Duration (STLD) Plans will now be limited to terms of 3 months, with only one renewal term allowed in any 12-month period, for a total of potentially 6 months of STLD plan coverage. This is very important because STLD plans are intended to be gap coverage and do not provide full insurance coverage.
Legislative victories aren’t always limited to when bills pass. Often, the American Heart Association will work with advocates to fight against bills that would limit coverage or create inequality among under-resourced Virginians who need the coverage now more than ever. Advocates were able to help defeat bills that would have:
- Removed age limits from the sale of catastrophic health plans and would have drawn more healthy people out of the risk pool, while ironically driving up the cost of catastrophic plans themselves.
- Expanded the availability of Association Health Plans (AHPs) in Virginia that could exclude certain groups of people based on their occupation, geographic location, or in some cases, even their age and gender.
Looking back on this year’s victories, Virginia Advocacy Committee Vice Chair Jodi Smith said, “I connected with the American Heart Association after my son was born in 2003 with a severe heart defect, and I have been an advocate for over ten years now. Small achievements in programs that benefit people with a heart defect like my son—they add up to big, positive changes for those living with heart disease. When I look back on the bills we helped pass this year – and the potentially harmful ones we defeated – I now realize we stand upon a hill that we have built ourselves. I still look at the mountain ahead, but because of our efforts, it’s that much smaller now.”
We all have the power to make a difference by speaking out for policies that help build healthier communities and healthier lives. For more than 30 years, You’re the Cure – the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s grassroots network – has been doing just that. Each day, we work together to advocate for heart-healthy and stroke-smart communities through legislative and regulatory policies in our cities, states, and across the country, and we hope you’ll join us! For more information, please visit yourethecure.org to start helping us save lives today.