The following opinion column was submitted by state Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington.
The Virginia General Assembly will soon enact legislation that directs the State Corporation Commission to perform plan management functions for participation in a federal health benefits exchange (HBE) program. The exchange will function as a virtual marketplace where families can shop and compare insurance policies, with the help of a consumer navigator, to find the appropriate policy for their needs.
Thanks to new rules, shoppers in the exchange can be assured that any policy they purchase will cover important categories of care, including mental health, pre- and post-natal care, and prescription drug coverage. But, if Governor McDonnell has his way, women who may need to access an abortion will find themselves in the unthinkable position of discovering that they lack insurance coverage for this medical procedure. This is because Governor McDonnell wants to override a woman’s ability to select the insurance plan of her choice with her own money. Stop playing politics with healthcare!
All Virginians in the HBE will need to use their private funds to purchase insurance plans. Individuals and families between 138 percent of poverty and 400 percent of poverty will be eligible for partial subsidies from the Federal government in the form of tax credits. No Virginia funds will be subsidizing these plans. But families eligible for subsidies will be expected to pay up to 9.5 percent of their income to purchase a plan. A family of four at 400 percent of the poverty level would be expected to pay $8,379 annually for health insurance in an exchange.
The Affordable Care Act prohibits any public money from being used to subsidize insurance coverage for abortions. Virginia law specifically prohibits the use of state funds to pay for an abortion except in the case of rape, incest, or danger to the life of the mother. However, Governor McDonnell wants to take the big arm of government even further by proposing to tell Virginia families what insurance coverage they can buy with their own private dollars. This is contrary to Virginia’s long-held principles of honoring the free market and Governor McDonnell’s personal commitment to limiting the role of government.
Virginians have declared again and again that politicians have no business intruding into doctors’ offices. Those decisions should be between a woman, her physician, her family, and her faith leader. Government should NOT be in the middle of these decisions.
Governor McDonnell’s tactic reminds me of last year’s General Assembly session when Republican lawmakers, at the direction of the Governor, attempted to force medically unnecessary trans-vaginal ultrasounds on Virginia women and declare that a fertilized egg possessed the same rights as a person. I urge Governor McDonnell to leave women’s decisions about their bodies to women.
State Senator representing parts of Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun
Chair, Women’s Reproductive Health Caucus