In the United States, healthcare costs have continued to rise dramatically in the last couple decades. The high cost of insurance and deductibles are devastating the take home pay of too many Virginians, and it is unacceptable.
In order to provide Virginians with lower healthcare costs, we sought to give our constituents more freedom in determining their healthcare. I supported a bill that lets insurance companies offer low-cost benefit plans to individuals with fewer healthcare needs. We also passed legislation that enables patients to shop around for their healthcare treatments, allowing them to save money if they found more affordable prices. We were also able to lower insurance costs in two ways: first, by authorizing small businesses to pool together for insurance, and second, by approving the purchase of short-term plans for those between jobs.
The flip side of high healthcare prices is a lack of accessibility for the vulnerable, whether medically or financially. In response to this, we fought to expand access for one such group: children with autism. Before this legislation, insurance companies were only required to cover treatments for autism until age 10. Now autism treatments are covered for children of all ages.
One of the critical areas is to reform Virginia's antiquated "Certificate of Public Need" laws in which government regulations make it extremely difficult to expand health care providers to communities in need. Transparency in pricing and accountability is also key to help drive down health care costs and expand access to all Virginians.
Outside of insurance, we have taken steps to identify and fight the public health problems present in the Commonwealth. To address the growing epidemic of teenage tobacco and vape addiction, I am proud to have supported the bill that raised the legal age for the purchase of tobacco, vapor, and nicotine up to 21 years old. These substances are harmful, addictive, and have no place in the lives of our high school students. Another pressing issue that we have identified is maternal mortality. After discovering the significant disparity in maternal mortality for African Americans and women in poverty, we established the Maternal Mortality Review Team to collect the crucial childbirth data in order to put an end to this crisis in Virginia.
One other such crisis is the growing prevalence of mental and behavioral health problems. These problems are among the least understood yet most widely experienced health issues in the United States today. Approximately 1 in 5 adults experiences mental illness each year, while 1 in 25 experiences a serious mental illness that seriously impacts their lives and livelihoods. Our objective is to close the gaps in our mental health system, improving upon Virginia’s existing mental and behavioral healthcare safety net. In Richmond I will remain an advocate for better healthcare, with greater choice and lower costs for all Virginians.