This year has seen the Virginia General Assembly debating two major health proposals: mental health reform and Medicaid expansion. Though improvements to Virginia’s mental health system became law on April 6, the legislature remains deadlocked over proposals to close the coverage gap. While these issues may appear to be separate, recent research highlights the deep connection between them and demonstrates the powerful impact that closing the coverage gap would have on the lives of some of the most vulnerable Virginians.
Gov. McAuliffe Terry’s budget would expand the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, while the Senate’s Marketplace Virginia plan would cover the same people through an alternate route. Proposed by Republican Sen. John C. Watkins, Marketplace Virginia would help up uninsured Virginians trapped in the coverage gap – including many living with mental illness – buy private insurance plans. Without either the governor’s proposal or Marketplace Virginia, they will remain unable to afford insurance on their own, but will not qualify for Medicaid. Despite this, the General Assembly has thus far declined to adopt either proposal.This article was originally published in The Roanoke Times .