Governor Tim Kaine announced Wednesday his proposal to expand access to health care for the uninsured. His proposed budget will include funding to increase women’s access to critical preventive care, expand the health care safety net for the uninsured, and launch a pilot initiative to provide insurance to more working families.
“One in seven Virginians still lack health insurance because their employers don’t provide it or because they cannot afford it,” says Kaine. “As more citizens rely on our health care safety net for their most basic health needs, we must strengthen that system. We must also look for new, innovative ways to provide access to health insurance, sharing responsibility with our private sector partners and our citizens.”
The proposed budget includes additional funding to support Virginia’s health and dental care safety net providers to stabilize their operations, expand access to health and dental care services, and coordinate services for uninsured Virginians.
Community-based providers, who will receive funding, consist of free clinics, health centers, local health departments, and other local or regional organizations providing care to the uninsured.
“Over one million Virginians are uninsured, and for many, Virginia’s health safety net is the only place to turn,” said Debbie Oswalt, Executive Director of the Virginia Health Care Foundation. “We are grateful that the Governor recognizes the importance of the safety net and the strain it is under, and are thrilled with this investment of state funds.”
Kaine is also seeking to expand preventive care for uninsured women. The proposed budget includes funding to provide free screenings and diagnostic tests for breast and cervical cancer for more than 1,000 uninsured women ages 18 through 44.
In addition, he proposes to expand state-supported prenatal care for low-income women, from 185 to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. This expansion will offer coverage to an additional 400 women per year.
“Despite its status as one of the wealthiest states, Virginia has a high infant mortality rate,” says Kaine. “By providing more women with access to prenatal care services earlier on in their pregnancy, I am hopeful that we can begin to decrease the number of infant deaths in the Commonwealth.”
The budget also addresses an innovative recommendation from the Health Reform Commission to provide an affordable health insurance option to low-income workers.
The Governor’s “VirginiaShare” Health Insurance Program will expand access to health insurance coverage for low-income families earning 200% of the federal poverty level or less, and those who work for small businesses that might not be able to afford health insurance for employees.
The program will model private insurance coverage, with the state covering 1/3 of the premium costs for participating individuals, up to $75 per month. The employer and the employee will each cover 1/3 of the remaining cost. More than 5,000 Virginians are expected to be able to get health insurance when this program begins.