Patients, consumers, and health policy experts advocate at Virginia State Capitol for access to high-quality health insurance coverage, pre-existing conditions protections for all Virginians

 Healthy Market VA, a coalition of organizations representing thousands of Virginians with chronic diseases, small business owners, and older adults spoke out on Tuesday, January 28 at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond to ensure that preserving life-saving patient protections and strengthening Virginia’s health insurance marketplace are top priorities for lawmakers this session.

State lawmakers are considering expanding access to health plans that are not thorough enough and put people in danger of not having the insurance coverage they need if they get sick. This could lead to high medical debt, the spread of poor-quality insurance options, and increased illness and death.

Patients shared stories with legislators about how they’ve managed their chronic conditions and why it’s important for Virginia to ensure that pre-existing conditions are protected. Avis Thomas of Richmond, Virginia is mother of four, a kidney transplant recipient, and has suffered life-long health issues. Her children and husband also suffer from chronic health issues. “Nobody signs up to have a pre-existing condition. With all the stressors of life, I can’t seem to shake the hardship of finding affordable and comprehensive healthcare,” she shared.

A local small business owner, Tierra Henderson also of Richmond, shared her story and discussed how current policies impact small business health coverage. “If I am unable to afford comprehensive health plans for my employees, I cannot attract a qualified workforce,” Henderson said.

Physician advocates talked about the need for access to care for Virginia’s most vulnerable populations. “As a physician, I see the importance of affordable, high-quality insurance for every person and family, including those with pre-existing conditions, small business owners, and older adults.”  says advocate Dr. Nina Solenski from Albemarle County and member of the American Heart Association’s Virginia Advocacy Committee.

Even if you couldn’t make it to the Capitol, you can still take action. Contact your legislators and tell them to support affordable high quality health care access for all.   Access to health care should put patients first. By supporting these issues, we can ensure that affordable, high quality health care is available for all Virginians.  Follow along on social media with #DefendPreEx and #HealthyMarketVA.

Healthy Market VA works to ensure access to affordable, high-quality healthcare coverage for everyone by strengthening Virginia’s health insurance marketplace. It is made up of health organizations including: American Heart Association, AARP Virginia, Arthritis Foundation, VPLC, The Commonwealth Institute, Leukemia Lymphoma Society, American Lung Association, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Small Business Majority, Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Hemophilia Foundation and the Hemophilia Association of the Capital Area.

 Check out the Virginia News Service story:

The American Heart Association and Health Organizations Respond to Governor Northam’s 2021 Budget Tobacco Tax Increase

“The American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Medical Society of Virginia, and appreciate the Governor including an increase in funding for tobacco cessation and prevention programs, seeking funding for reinsurance, and including a tobacco tax in his proposed 2021 budget. However, the proposed cigarette tax increase of $0.30 is insignificant and far too low to protect youth from becoming addicted to tobacco and not the best mechanism to fully fund reinsurance.

“Virginia currently ranks 50th in the nation on cigarette taxes and is in desperate need of a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to stop the tobacco industry from targeting our youth. The Governor’s proposed tax increase would still fall far below the national average state tax on cigarettes, which $1.81.

“We urge the Virginia Legislature to increase the tobacco tax by at least $1.00 and levy a comparable wholesale tax on all tobacco products including electronic cigarettes and heated- products. The evidence is overwhelming that increasing the tobacco tax by at least $1.00 would prevent thousands of Virginia children from never taking up smoking, encourage thousands of adults to stop smoking, save millions in health care costs, and provide resources to allow the state to more appropriately fund tobacco cessation and prevention.

“A higher tobacco tax would allow the state to both fund reinsurance and devote more funds to cessation. An increase of $1.50 could generate over $430 million for these important programs.

“The proposed $0.066 per milliliter e-cigarette tax is too small to create any public health benefits and instead should be a percentage tax applied at wholesale. With the proposed tax, it would be roughly 4 cents increase per e-cigarette pod. The amount is nominal and does not serve as a deterrent to prevent and protect youth from tobacco.

“Virginia youth and families deserve more protections from the tobacco industry. The current youth vaping epidemic is threatening the health of Virginia children―permanent and immediate solutions to protect them from a lifetime of tobacco and nicotine addiction are needed now.

“The time is now to protect our youth from the harmful effects of tobacco and nicotine addiction. We look forward to working closely with the Governor and General Assembly on a permanent and adequate solution to this public health emergency.”


Roanoke Go Red for Women Luncheon helps local women and families build healthy lives

The American Heart Association and F&S Building Innovations encouraged Roanoke Go Red for Women Luncheon guests to support the health and well-being of individuals served by the Bedford Pregnancy Center and Street Ransom by donating personal care items. The two local charities and the American Heart Association share a common goal of helping Roanokers build healthy families.

The luncheon’s ‘Building Healthy Families’ theme and support of Street Ransom and the Bedford Pregnancy Center stemmed from the passion of Alicia Smith, Chair of the Executive Leadership Team for the Go Red for Women campaign and the association to make an impact on the health and wellness of women and families in Western Virginia.

Children and teens who are abused, witness violence or face other adversities are more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases in adulthood, according to a scientific statement by the American Heart Association published in the Association’s journal Circulation.  Stressful life events may also be linked to higher incidents of heart attack, stroke and other types of cardiovascular disease among adult women.

“Sometimes coming to events like this helps people heal, if they’ve been through (heart disease or stroke), just being with other people who understand what they’ve been through and can recognize and put an arm around them,” Smith said of the event.  “It’s an opportunity to see there are other people who care.”

Donations were collected at drop-off locations such as the Roanoke American Heart Association office, Grandin Court Baptist Church and F&S Building Innovations.  Guests of the luncheon also brought toiletries, personal hygiene products and baby items to the luncheon May 17.  Donations were packaged at the event by volunteers and delivered to Bedford Pregnancy Center and Street Ransom in June.