Our community is still grieving and many questions remain unanswered, including one major one—will we find a way to heal and rekindle a semblance of civility and mutual respect which many of us believe is critically important to making this a better place?
Events like the “Unite the Right” rally prompt many of us in elected office to dig deeper in advocating for the values that our constituents feel are important. Among those are access to health care, affordable housing, investments in children, and tolerance and diversity. Some in this country would use the issue of monuments to divide us; there are other issues, however, that we neglect at our peril.
Republicans Continued Assault On Health Care
We thought we dodged a bullet at the end of July as the Senate rejected repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but repeal is now again on the agenda in the form of the proposed Graham-Cassidy bill. Like previous approaches, this proposal would seriously affect Virginia by reducing insurance options and by “block-granting” Medicaid funding. Virginia is one of the most frugal states in terms of its Medicaid funding; block-granting federal reimbursements (now 50% of the program) would put great pressure on our budget. This bill may even be worse than previous repeal measures, but few know its precise costs and impacts since the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) will not have time to project them before a vote. For that reason, every single member of the Virginia delegation and every single Delegate and State Senator should oppose this. As expected, Republicans have either embraced this new proposal or have remained silent. Please write your Congressperson, Senator, Delegate, and candidates for statewide office asking them to speak out. Post on social media. Write to the newspaper. We only have a few days to stop this ideological crusade to remove healthcare coverage from millions.
This new proposal will only further disrupt an increasingly tenuous insurance marketplace. Consider last month’s decision by Anthem, the largest health insurer in the Commonwealth; citing concerns about the Trump administration’s creation of uncertainty in the insurance market, Anthem said it would no longer offer private health insurance in Virginia through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges. This action was followed by Optima’s early September decision to limit its participation to areas (like Charlottesville and Albemarle) served by Sentara. These two actions would have left citizens in 63 localities without any option for health coverage, unless it was provided through their employer, and could have left 200,000 Virginians without any choice at all. Fortunately, after substantial lobbying from citizens and Governor McAuliffe, Anthem has now reversed its decision, and will offer some insurance in otherwise-unserved localities. Its decision to return to the market, however, comes at a steep cost—a projected 42-64 percent increase in the cost of coverage. While Republicans and President Trump have failed to destroy the Affordable Care Act legislatively, they are nonetheless undermining it by creating havoc in the insurance markets. (See my recent article about this here). Trump’s threats to withhold the subsidies that make the exchanges work, coupled with Republican refusals to address this issue, means that any failure in the system will be theirs alone. If the ACA collapses, the impacts will be substantial, not only for Virginians, but for the hospitals who serve them. As more Virginians lose insurance, hospitals will be forced to assume higher costs for charity care, thereby threatening their bottom line, and demands will be placed on the state budget to fund increasing amounts of indigent care. We cannot remain silent in the face of these challenges—we should challenge our state and federal representatives to fight to fix the ACA’s problems instead of putting our constituents at risk.
Southwood—A Local Project Of National Significance
We all like to do “big things” that are transformative, and what is happening at Southwood Mobile Home Park located just south of Charlottesville has the potential to be just that. In 2007, our local Habitat for Humanity acquired the 100-acre neighborhood, home to 1500 residents, many of whom live below the poverty line. Habitat had a vision to channel the creative energies of the residents to preserve and expand affordable housing, improve their housing stock, and provide ownership opportunities without displacing anyone who wanted to continue to live there.
Habitat understood the challenges well, having successfully collaborated with residents to transform a smaller trailer park in the city several years ago. It invested $2 million at Southwood to correct problems brought on by deferred maintenance and to improve roads. They brought the local Boys and Girls Club onsite to help school children develop their potential. Just last week, the group assembled a large number of stakeholders, including local and state nonprofits and government entities, who are committed to working with the residents and finding the resources to create a new mixed-income neighborhood that builds on the strengths of the old. The residents will largely control the process, which will be created in stages, and that should engage resources from the region and the state. Projects like this make me proud to represent this community and work to make it better. Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville Website.
I am fortunate to be invited to countless events, but one which stood out was a fundraiser for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Central Blue Ridge that my wife and I attended last week. This agency does not receive a lot of publicity, but they are transforming lives. When you listen to the stories of how children are helped—one on one—you marvel at the commitment of our citizens to make our region better. When we think about the challenges our community has faced over the last months, we should keep in mind groups like this. Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Central Blue Ridge Website.
Our Community Of Diversity And Tolerance
Finally, this past Saturday was Pride Day in Charlottesville. Joining thousands of citizens at the downtown Pavilion to celebrate our distinctive American values of equality, diversity, and tolerance reinforced how the events of August 11-12 do not represent this community. We, of course, have much work left to do, but we also realize that much has been accomplished, and that we have a strong base upon which we can build. And build together we must, refusing to embrace the politics of polarization and disunity that will only encourage those who oppose progress and make our task more difficult.