Don’t Believe the Hype: Republican Attacks on Pre-Existing Conditions Are Crystal Clear

Richmond, Virginia—Though some would like you to believe otherwise, the fact is that Republicans in the General Assembly have repeatedly voted for legislation that would make it more difficult for people with pre-existing conditions to access care. From opposing the Affordable Care Act to refusing to pass Medicaid Expansion until voters demanded it, legislative Republicans have repeatedly voted to undermine people’s access to quality, affordable care..

According to federal government estimates, up to half of all Americans may have a preexisting condition. Yet, legislative Republicans like Senator Siobhan Dunnavant have repeatedly supported legislative proposals that would roll back the protections of the Affordable Care Act and, if implemented, allow insurance companies to go back to discriminating against people with preexisting conditions.  

“Everyone in our community should be able to see a doctor when they are sick without worrying about a huge bill that will come afterward. But Republicans like Senator Siobhan Dunnavant repeatedly voted to undermine protections for people with preexisting conditions,” Anna Scholl, Executive Director of Progress Virginia said. “People in our community need access to affordable health insurance that actually covers the services they need, not these junk plans that don’t actually cover the care people need, and certainly not drumbeating for Trump’s attempts to repeal the ACA. From blocking Medicaid expansion to supporting proposals to repeal requirements for essential health benefits and undermine the market for affordable insurance, Republicans like Siobhan Dunnavant have waged an all out attack on our healthcare access..”


Republican majorities in the House of Delegates and State Senate voted in 2017 for a “trigger repeal” that would automatically undo the steps Virginia had taken to comply with the ACA if President Trump successfully repealed the federal law. 

HB2411, sponsored by Delegate Kathy Byron, would have repealed Virginia’s compliance with the Affordable Care Act, including the federally-mandated essential health benefits package, which requires coverage for preexisting conditions, maternity care, and more. The bill passed with Republican votes and was vetoed by the Governor. [HB2411, 2017]

Senator Siobhan Dunnavant sponsored legislation in 2018 to expand so-called “short term” health insurance plans from 90 days to 365 days with the option to renew for two years. The legislation passed with Republican majorities in the House of Delegates and state Senate before it was vetoed by the Governor. [SB844, 2018]

  • Short term plans are exempt from many of the requirements of the ACA, including the mandate that insurers not discriminate against individuals with preexisting conditions. 
  • According to The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, “Insurers may simply deny coverage to people who report having a pre-existing health condition. Over 1.3 million Virginians – 26 percent of the non-elderly population in the state – are estimated to have a pre-existing condition and could see ACA protections deteriorate. Short-term plan contracts typically include a broad exclusion for any care related to a pre-existing condition.” [The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, 11/2/2018]

Virginia could have stood up to Trump attempts to undermine the Affordable Care Act through junk plans, but instead choose to join his campaign.

Regulation of health insurance is a state prerogative. While 14 states have chosen to limit short term health insurance plans or ban them altogether to stand up for their state consumers, Senator Dunnavant instead chose to push the Trump Administration agenda to increase insurers’ ability to sell health plans that do not have to cover preexisting conditions, maternity care, and more while having the flexibility to charge people more based on their gender. [The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, 11/2/2018]

According to estimates, one quarter to one half of Americans are living with a preexisting condition.

A report from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services found that up to 50% of Americans could be living with a preexisting condition. Research from the Kaiser Foundation estimates 1.3M Virginians, or 26% of the population, are living with a preexisting condition. [CMS; Kaiser Foundation.]