Thursday, January 25, 2018

Week 2 General Assembly Update

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Dear Robert —

      We are two weeks into Session and things are moving along here in Richmond. Committees have been meeting regularly and there has already been some lively and productive debates on the floor of the Senate.

       Last week, Governor Northam gave his address to a joint session of the House and Senate. Like many of my fellow legislators, I had hoped that the departure of Governor McAuliffe would signal at least some relief from the polarizing partisanship of the last four years.  With an eye toward higher office and the early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire for his party’s 2020 presidential nomination, the last year of the McAuliffe Administration had developed the feel of an exploratory campaign committee.

      Governor Northam, however, has come out of the gates pushing hard his agenda to fully enact Obamacare in Virginia by expanding Medicaid here in the Commonwealth. I stand in staunch opposition to this policy. According to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), Medicaid spending increases have outpaced total state budget growth over the past 10 years and has comprised of over a fifth of the general fund budget in 2016, up dramatically since 2007. And that increase is mostly due to rising enrollment. In a nutshell, Medicaid spending is out of control.

        I support a fiscally responsible, market driven approach to expanding access to healthcare in Virginia. We cannot simply solve our problems by expanding Medicaid. A particularly pressing aspect of the healthcare crisis is the increase in premiums and deductibles that are crushing family budgets across Virginia. Other states that have accepted expansion have had sticker shock and have found that it drastically increased prices for insurance. Even without expansion, many families across Virginia are experiencing skyrocketing health insurance premiums.  I hope our Governor and my colleagues in the House and Senate will be willing to work together to find a compromise when it comes to providing healthcare in our Commonwealth.  Expanding Medicaid does absolutely nothing to help these working families being priced out of the health insurance marketplace.  

After a week of ceremonies, we’ve been considering bills in the Senate at a very quick pace. There have been nearly 3,000 bills introduced in the House and Senate. Crossover, the day on which the House and Senate must have completed all work on legislation filed by its respective members falls on February 13 this session. That doesn’t allow for a lot of time to consider all the bills that have been filed. Committees met in lengthy sessions this week, considering legislation filed thus far. Here’s where you can find a list of the bills introduced this year: I hope you will notify my office with any concerns or questions you have about these bills.

Over the past week we had the pleasure to welcome constituents from the Harrisonburg/Rockingham Chamber of Commerce Leadership program, and citizens from the Virginia Hemophilia Foundation.  We also had visits from leadership at Valley Health, Augusta Health and one of our local dentists on behalf of the Virginia Dental Association.  It’s always great to see constituents advocating for issues important to them personally or to their profession.  If you are here in Richmond during Session, please stop by our office in the Pocahontas building on the fifth floor, room 502 - East. And if there are any issues you would like to discuss, please don’t hesitate to contact my office at 804-698-7526 or email me at Jenni Aulgur, my legislative aide, or myself would love to assist you in any way we can. 

 Best regards,

           Mark Obenshain


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