Eleven People in the Coverage Gap Die Every Week in Virginia

While Republican senators in Virginia’s General Assembly are pulling out all the stops to prevent a clean Medicaid expansion, eleven people are dying every week in the Commonwealth because they don’t have health insurance.

Virginians are dying from a whole spectrum of preventable, treatable, and curable illnesses because a group of Republican senators don’t believe that they have a right to healthcare. That’s just unacceptable. In fact, 83 percent of all Virginians are in favor of expanding Medicaid. Those Republican senators clearly don’t see the writing on the wall.

And that’s why we held a die-in in front of Senator Siobhan Dunnavant’s office on Tuesday.

Republicans like Senator Siobhan Dunnavant—a practicing doctor—have some b.s. reasons as to why they oppose Medicaid expansion. They have said that federal funding of Medicaid expansion is uncertain in the future, so they’re reluctant to vote in favor of it. Well, the 33 states (including D.C.) that expanded Medicaid haven’t had their funding pulled yet, so what’s the hold-up? In the meantime, Virginia families can’t see the doctor because they have to choose between buying groceries and getting healthcare.

Dunnavant also believes that Medicaid should be reserved for helping people who are really sick and chronically ill, but not for healthy individuals. She is dead wrong, because preventive care is essential to keeping people from getting seriously ill in the first place. As a doctor, she should know that. A Harvard School of Public Health study found that adults living in states that expanded Medicaid received more primary and preventive care and reported improved health compared to adults living in states that didn’t expand Medicaid.

Expanding Medicaid in Virginia would provide health insurance to 400,000 people in the coverage gap, many of them are the working poor — people who work full-time or part-time but still can’t pay for the basics like food, housing and healthcare. Virginia is one of the wealthiest states in the country, but neglects to take care of people who can’t afford access to healthcare.

The hypocrisy is breathtaking and we need to expose these Republicans who are holding our state back for what they really are: total phonies who don’t give a damn about the issues affecting real Virginians. That’s why we showed up at Dunnavant’s medical office to hold a die-in—to show the real cost of her opposition to Medicaid expansion. Virginia can’t wait any longer—expand Medicaid already!