Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, applauded the reopening of the Lee County Community Hospital in Pennington Gap, Virginia. This morning, Senator Warner attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the new Lee County Community Hospital. In April, Kaine toured the construction site of the hospital, which was being renovated by Ballad Health. While there, Kaine met with Ballad Health officials to discuss the reopening and health needs facing the region, including efforts to respond to COVID-19 and strengthen Virginia’s rural health care system. 

“As many rural hospitals across the nation are closing due to lack of resources, we hope Lee County Community Hospital serves as an example of how these vital facilities can reopen and effectively serve their communities,” said the Senators. “We are very pleased to see the hospital fully open, and we will continue working to ensure Virginians have access to reliable and affordable health care services, regardless of their zip code.” 

In 2013, the Lee County Regional Medical Center closed abruptly. Not only did this closure leave the residents of Lee County without access to a nearby hospital, but it also hindered opportunities for economic development in the area. In February of 2019, Lee County Hospital Authority partnered with Ballad Health to begin plans to reopen the hospital.

Senators Warner and Kaine have long supported the reopening of this facility. In March, the senators introduced the bipartisan Save Rural Hospitals Act of 2021 to provide additional financial support for rural hospitals that are already operating on very thin margins. Reporting indicates that rural hospitals are now closing at an alarming rate, with more than 130 rural hospitals across the nation having closed in the last decade. Lee County Community Hospital is rare among these hospitals for having reopened. Warner and Kaine have also introduced the States Achieve Medicaid Expansion (SAME) Act of 2021,legislation to promote health care access for low-income Americans and support Medicaid expansion nationwide. It is estimated that the SAME Act would save Virginia’s hospitals an estimated $300 million per year in the first three years of implementation, according to the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association. 

Flickr photo album of Senator Warner’s visit today can be found here.

Flickr photo album of Senator Kaine’s visit in April can be found here.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) applauded an announcement from the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) that it has selected a location for a new Southside outpatient clinic for veterans in Hampton Roads. The 196,000-square-foot outpatient facility will be constructed on a 25-acre parcel of land on the Chesapeake Regional Hospital campus and is the result of a successful bipartisan effortoriginally spearheaded by Sen. Warner in 2016 to approve 28 overdue Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility leases, including another outpatient clinic in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

“This new outpatient facility is long-overdue in a region with one of the fastest-growing veterans populations in the country, and where veterans often battle traffic and long wait times to access the care they’ve earned,” said Sen. Warner today. “After years of delays, I’m pleased that a site for this new VA clinic in Southside Hampton Roads has finally been selected, and look forward to working with local and federal officials to make sure that it opens its doors as soon as possible.” 

High demand has often meant long wait times for care at VA medical facilities in Hampton Roads, where enrollees are expected to increase by 44 percent over the next 20 years, and outpatient workload is expected to increase by more than 70 percent. Sen. Warner has been pushingunder three different presidents to get the long-planned Southside clinic up and running to alleviate demand in the region. While the veteran population in Virginia is predicted to grow more than two percent over the next several years, enrollees at the Hampton VA are expected to rise approximately 16 percent within the same timeframe.

During his time in the Senate, Sen. Warner has fought to reduce wait times for veterans in Hampton Roads. In 2015, confronted with wait times that were three times the national average, Sen. Warner successfully urged the VA to send down a team of experts to address the problem. He also succeeded in getting the Northern Virginia Technology Council to issue a free report detailing how to reduce wait times.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) today sent a letter urging congressional appropriators to include $2 million in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Mobile Testing Units, which offer free and confidential health screenings to coal miners at risk of developing black lung disease. Specifically, the funding would go towards the purchase of a new NIOSH Mobile Testing Unit and towards needed maintenance for the two existing units that serve the Appalachian region – one of which is nonoperational and the other of which is set to be retired in the next few years. 

“Black lung disease is a debilitating, potentially fatal disease caused by long-term exposure to coal dust. Recently, researchers have documented a rise in the advanced state of black lung disease, known as complicated black lung or progressive massive fibrosis. Complicated black lung encompasses the worst stages of the disease, which causes miners to gradually lose their ability to breathe. If black lung is caught early, steps can be taken to help prevent it from progressing to the most serious forms of the disease. The screenings offered through NIOSH Mobile Testing Units typically take 30 minutes and the results are confidential by law. The accessibility of the mobile units enable and potentially motivate action towards reducing miners’ exposure to coal dust if testing positive for black lung,” wrote the Senators to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), Education, and Related Agencies. 

A 2019 report by the CDC – commissioned by Sens. Warner, Kaine, Manchin, Casey, Brown, and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) – identified that a lack of accessibility to health screenings and fear of discrimination or retribution prevents many miners from being screened for black lung disease. Currently, the national participation rate in the Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program (CWHSP) is approximately 35 percent among active miners and even lower among retirees. In their letter, the Senators underscore that providing this critical funding to activate more screening units will make it easier for Americans to access this free health screening program in an effort to detect black lung disease early. 

“The NIOSH-operated Mobile Testing Units travel to convenient community locations, easing time and accessibility concerns. Additionally, screenings through mobile units are sometimes offered through third party locations, possibly reducing miners’ fear of discrimination. To improve public health and increase participation in CWHSP screenings, we are asking the committee to provide $2 million dollars for a new NIOSH Mobile Testing Unit and needed maintenance on existing units,” they concluded.

A copy of the letter is found here and below.

 

Dear Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray:  

As you prepare the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education & Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, we are writing to urge you to provide at least $2 million in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Mobile Testing Units, which offer confidential health screenings to coal miners as part of the Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program (CWHSP). 

NIOSH mobile testing units offer confidential and accessible screenings that improve public health by providing early detection of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP), commonly referred to as black lung disease. Unfortunately, there are only two NIOSH Mobile Testing Units in the Appalachian region. One of these units is not currently operating and one unit is expected to be defunct within a couple of years.  

Black lung disease is a debilitating, potentially fatal disease caused by long-term exposure to coal dust. Recently, researchers have documented a rise in the advanced state of black lung disease, known as complicated black lung or progressive massive fibrosis. Complicated black lung encompasses the worst stages of the disease, which causes miners to gradually lose their ability to breathe. If black lung is caught early, steps can be taken to help prevent it from progressing to the most serious forms of the disease. The screenings offered through NIOSH Mobile Testing Units typically take 30 minutes and the results are confidential by law. The accessibility of the mobile units enable and potentially motivate action towards reducing miners’ exposure to coal dust if testing positive for black lung. 

In June 2019, your committee was sent a report prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) detailing that only about 35% of active coal miners participate in the CWHSP program because of several concerns. These concerns included: 

1. Lack of confidentiality and fear of discrimination resulting from participation, and 

2. Costly travel expenses and using limited time off to access screenings at black lung clinics. 

The NIOSH-operated Mobile Testing Units travel to convenient community locations, easing time and accessibility concerns. Additionally, screenings through mobile units are sometimes offered through third party locations, possibly reducing miners’ fear of discrimination. 

To improve public health and increase participation in CWHSP screenings, we are asking the committee to provide $2 million dollars for a new NIOSH Mobile Testing Unit and needed maintenance on existing units. Thank you for your consideration of our request. Should you have any questions for need additional information please do not hesitate to reach out to us.  

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following after the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 7-2 to uphold the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in Texas v. United States, which could have sabotaged protections for more than 3 million Virginians living with a preexisting condition such as COVID-19, diabetes, asthma, or cancer, and potentially exposing them to annual or lifetime caps on coverage or denials for the care they need:

“Nearly 700,000 Virginians have gained health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act, and many more Americans now have health care coverage today than at any point in history because of it. Today, the Supreme Court has once again ruled that the Affordable Care Act will remain law of the land, but the important work in Congress isn’t over. Now we must continue to improve and build upon the success of the Affordable Care Act in a way that expands health care coverage to more Americans and work to further reduce health care costs.”

In the Senate, Sen. Warner has sponsored several bills to block the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine the ACA and protect people with preexisting conditions. Earlier this year, Sen. Warner introduced legislation to undo a Trump-era rule that dismantled health care coverage for Americans with preexisting conditions. In 2019, Sen. Warner also led the entire Senate Democratic Caucus in forcing an up-or-down vote on overturning this rule that flooded the health care market with “junk” health care plans, which are often advertised in low-income communities or communities of color. That vote was defeated as a result of Republican opposition, jeopardizing protections for millions of Americans with preexisting conditions.

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will receive $15,315,313 in federal funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)to support Virginia’s public health emergency preparedness. 

“We are pleased to see this funding go towards supporting the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) as they continue to work around the clock to protect the health and promote the well-being of all Virginians during this pandemic,” said the Senators

Sens. Warner and Kaine strongly supported the recent passage of the American Rescue Plan, which included $7.5 billion in funding for the CDC and public health departments to expand vaccine distribution and administration.  

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, joined Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and 41 Senate Democrats in urging Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra to quickly finalize the proposed rule for the Title X family planning program that would reverse the Trump Administration’s gag rule, commit to health equity, and ensure that patients who depend on Title X providers can get the care they need—including for birth control, STD screenings, cancer screenings, and more.

“For over 50 years, the Title X program has been an invaluable tool for providing high-quality family planning and preventive health care to millions of people, many of whom earn low incomes and have extremely limited access to health care,” wrote the Senators in a letter. “We urge you to swiftly finalize the proposed rule to ensure patients have widespread, affordable access to the comprehensive family planning services and cancer and sexually transmitted disease (STD) screenings they need from providers they trust.”

In the letter, the Senators expressed their support for Secretary Becerra to swiftly act to reverse the Trump Administration’s harmful gag rule prohibiting providers who receive Title X funds from informing patients about the full range of reproductive health care options available to them, including abortion. Despite the Title X program’s 50 years of bipartisan support, the Trump Administration’s gag rule slashed the Title X-funded health care network’s capacity, compromising the health care of millions patients nationwide—disproportionately women of color—who rely on Title X health centers. 

“The proposed rule would be a vital step in reversing the devastating loss of Title X services caused by the 2019 Title X regulations,” continued the Senators. “After the 2019 Title X regulations went into effect in July 2019, one-quarter of the clinics in the Title X network were forced to withdraw from the program, which meant at least 1.6 million people lost access to the Title X-supported services that were previously available to them.”

In addition to Senators Warner and Murray, the letter was signed by: Senators Bennet (D-CO), Luján (D-NM), Booker (D-NJ), Shaheen (D-NH), Wyden (D-OR), Murphy (D-CT), Gillibrand (D-NY), Baldwin (D-WI), Blumenthal (D-CT), Smith (D-MN), Menendez (D-NJ), Warren (D-MA), Casey (D-PA), Cardin (D-MD), Duckworth (D-IL), Leahy (D-VT), Hassan (D-NH), Markey (D-MA), Brown (D-OH), Durbin (D-IL), Tester (D-MT), Schumer (D-NY), King (I-ME), Hirono (D-HI), Van Hollen (D-MD), Whitehouse (D-RI), Stabenow (D-MI), Kaine (D-VA), Padilla (D-CA), Sanders (D-VT), Coons (D-DE), Rosen (D-NV), Carper (D-DE), Merkley (D-OR), Reed (D-RI), Feinstein (D-CA), Kelly (D-AZ), Warnock (D-GA), Peters (D-MI), Klobuchar (D-MN), and Ossoff (D-GA).

The full letter can be found HERE and below.

 

Dear Secretary Becerra

We write to provide formal comments on the Department of Health of Human Services’ (HHS) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), “Ensuring Access to Equitable, Affordable, Client-Centered, Quality Family Planning Services,” RIN 0937-AA11. For over 50 years, the Title X program has been an invaluable tool for providing high-quality family planning and preventive health care to millions of people, many of whom earn low incomes and have extremely limited access to health care. We support HHS’s prompt efforts to revoke the 2019 Title X regulations, which failed to carry out congressional intent for the Title X program. We urge you to swiftly finalize the proposed rule to ensure patients have widespread, affordable access to the comprehensive family planning services and cancer and sexually transmitted disease (STD) screenings they need from providers they trust.

The proposed rule would be a vital step in reversing the devastating loss of Title X services caused by the 2019 Title X regulations. After the 2019 Title X regulations went into effect in July 2019, one-quarter of the clinics in the Title X network were forced to withdraw from the program, which meant at least 1.6 million people lost access to the Title X-supported services that were previously available to them.[1] Federal data shows that compared to 2018, 844,083 fewer patients received family planning and sexual health services from Title X-supported providers in 2019 than in 2018.[2] This includes 280,000 fewer cancer screenings, 1.3 million fewer STD screenings, 278,000 fewer confidential HIV tests, and hundreds of thousands of people losing access to contraceptive care due to the rule.[3] While data from 2020 is not yet finalized, the initial data shows millions of people lost access to Title X-supported services in 2020.[4] This includes the loss of care for people in six states who no longer have Title X-supported providers, leaving nearly 19 million people without access to these vital services.[5] As STD rates continue to rise and the country grapples with providing care during a pandemic, this loss of care is particularly alarming.

If finalized, the proposed rule would build on the over 50 years of bipartisan support for the Title X program, which Congress intended to make “comprehensive voluntary family planning services readily available to all persons desiring such services.”[6] We support the proposed rule’s inclusion of health equity goals related to providing client-centered, culturally sensitive, linguistically appropriate, and equitable health care. Additionally, we believe the proposed rule restores the focus of the program to providing confidential, evidence-based care from trusted health care providers, which is vital to ensuring the program meets its core statutory mission of providing care. 

We urge you to swiftly finalize the proposed rule to restore the key focus of the Title X program and help move the program forward to ensure patients have access to the family planning services and cancer and STD screenings they need. 

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today urged the Biden administration to finalize regulations long-delayed by prior administrations allowing doctors to prescribe controlled substances through telehealth.

“I am very concerned that – despite repeated outreach from myself and others in Congress – the previous Administration did not take long-term action to address this issue,” wrote Sen. Warner in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Drug Enforcement Administration Acting Administrator Chris Evans. “I also recognize that much of this delay has been the result of previous Administrations and I hope to work with you all on a new approach that best serves patients.”

In January 2020, Warner similarly urged the Trump administration to finalize the long-awaited rules to expand the use of telehealth services, but never received a response. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear the importance of increased access to telehealth services and providers across the country continue to be frustrated there is no long-term solution for them to provide adequate care to their patients,” wrote Sen. Warner. “The DEA’s failure to promulgate the rule has meant that – despite Congress’ best efforts – millions of patients could be left without access to long-term treatment via telehealth.”

While the Ryan Haight Act of 2008 prohibited the delivery, distribution, or dispensing of a controlled substance by means of the internet, the law also required the DEA to establish rules allowing certain providers to prescribe and treat their patients without an in-person visit. Despite that requirement, and the passage of several subsequent bipartisan laws reiterating that directive, more than ten years later, the DEA has still not finalized the regulations allowing for prescriptions to be issued following a telehealth appointment.

Sen. Warner noted in today’s letter, “In practice, the DEA’s failure to address this issue means that a vast majority of health care providers that use telehealth to prescribe controlled substances to and otherwise treat their patients have been deterred in getting them the quality care they need. These restrictions have been temporarily waived during the COVID-19 public health emergency, and I welcome that, but patients and providers need a more permanent and long-term solution to this long-delayed rulemaking.” 

Sen. Warner has been a longtime advocate for increased access to health care through telehealth. Last week, he reintroduced legislation to expand coverage of telehealth services through Medicare, make permanent COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities, improve health outcomes, and make it easier for patients to safely connect with their doctors. Last year, during the height of the COVID-19 crisis, Sen. Warner sent a letter to Senate leadership calling for the permanent expansion of access to telehealth services. In 2018, Sen. Warner successfully included a provision to expand telehealth services for substance abuse treatment in the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018. In 2003, then-Gov. Warner expanded Medicaid coverage for telemedicine statewide, including evaluation and management visits, a range of individual psychotherapies, the full range of consultations, and some clinical services, including in cardiology and obstetrics. Coverage was also expanded to include non-physician providers. Among other benefits, the telehealth expansion allowed individuals in medically underserved and remote areas of Virginia to access quality specialty care that isn’t always available at home.

Full text of the letter is here and below.

Dear Attorney General Garland and Acting Administrator Evans:

I am writing to follow up on my January 2020 letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regarding implementation of critical provisions in the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008 (Ryan Haight Act) (Public Law 91-513) that ensure patients can successfully access medical treatment via telehealth. I am very concerned that – despite repeated outreach from myself and others in Congress – the previous Administration did not take long-term action to address this issue. I also recognize that much of this delay has been the result of previous Administrations and I hope to work with you all on a new approach that best serves patients.

As you may know – the Ryan Haight Act prohibits the sale of controlled substances without at least one in-person examination by a health care provider, but also directs the DEA to draft rules exempting certain health care providers from this prohibition. The spirit and clear intent of this law is to prevent the illicit use and sale of dangerous controlled substances online while maintaining the ability for legitimate healthcare providers to treat patients in need.  

In 2018, I worked with my colleagues in Congress to further clarify this intent by passing the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (SUPPORT Act) (Public Law 115-271). That legislation includes a provision I authored to enable Medicare-eligible individuals suffering from substance use disorder to be diagnosed and treated via telehealth. However, providers treating many of these patients via telehealth are often handicapped by the DEA’s delayed rulemaking and unable to use telehealth to prescribe them the medications they need.

It has now been more than 10 years since the Ryan Haight Act mandated the DEA establish a rule ensuring health care providers can successfully prescribe controlled substances via telehealth, but the DEA still has not acted. The SUPPORT Act again mandated the DEA issue rulemaking by October 2019 and more recently the Fiscal Year 2021 final appropriations report requested DEA establish these rules.

In practice, the DEA’s failure to address this issue means that a vast majority of health care providers that use telehealth to prescribe controlled substances to and otherwise treat their patients have been deterred in getting them the quality care they need. These restrictions have been temporarily waived during the COVID-19 public health emergency, and I welcome that, but patients and providers need a more permanent and long-term solution to this long-delayed rulemaking.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear the importance of increased access to telehealth services and providers across the country continue to be frustrated there is no long-term solution for them to provide adequate care to their patients. The DEA’s failure to promulgate the rule has meant that – despite Congress’ best efforts – millions of patients could be left without access to long-term treatment via telehealth. 

I am requesting that DEA act as soon as possible to promulgate rulemaking on this issue. I am also requesting that, in the interim, DEA provide my office with an update on its plan and timeline to promulgate such rules. Thank you in advance for your attention to this request and I look forward to hearing back from you.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Ben Cardin (D-MD), John Thune (R-SD), and Roger Wicker (R-MS) reintroduced the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2021. The CONNECT for Health Act will expand coverage of telehealth services through Medicare, make permanent COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities, improve health outcomes, and make it easier for patients to safely connect with their doctors.

“If we’ve learned anything in the past 14 months, it’s that people are better off when they’re able to see a doctor quickly, easily, and from the comfort of home. This is particularly the case for folks in rural or medically underserved communities, who may otherwise have to travel long distances to get basic medical services,” said Sen. Warner. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation, which will enable Virginians to make the most of telehealth capabilities and access the quality and affordable health care they need as soon as they need it.”

“Over the last year, telehealth has been crucial to safely delivering care to underserved communities,” said Sen. Kaine. “As we begin to recover and rebuild our nation, we should be making it easier for Americans to access quality health care. The permanent expansion of telehealth coverage would do just that, so I am proud to cosponsor this bipartisan effort.” 

Several provisions from the CONNECT for Health Act were included in COVID-19 relief legislation to expand access to telehealth during the pandemic and fund its implementation. As a result, telehealth has seen a sharp rise in use since the start of pandemic as patients seek to avoid traveling to hospitals and other health care settings and instead receive care at home. Data shows that the number of Medicare beneficiaries using telehealth services increased by about 13,000 percent in just a month and a half during the pandemic.

The CONNECT for Health Act was first introduced in 2016 and is considered the most comprehensive legislation on telehealth in Congress. Since 2016, several provisions of the bill were enacted into law or adopted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, including provisions to remove restrictions on telehealth services for mental health, stroke care, and home dialysis. 

The updated version of the CONNECT for Health Act builds on that progress and includes new and revised provisions that will help more people access telehealth services. Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Permanently remove all geographic restrictions on telehealth services and expand originating sites to include the home and other sites;
  • Allow health centers and rural health clinics to provide telehealth services, a provision currently in place due to the pandemic but on a temporary basis;
  • Provide the Secretary of Health and Human Services with the permanent authority to waive telehealth restrictions, a provision currently in place due to the pandemic but on a temporary basis; 
  • Allow for the waiver of telehealth restrictions during public health emergencies; and
  • Require a study to learn more about how telehealth has been used during the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA), David Schweikert (R-AZ), Peter Welch (D-VT), Bill Johnson (R-OH), and Doris Matsui (D-CA).

The CONNECT for Health Act has the support of more than 150 organizations including AARP, America’s Essential Hospitals, American College of Emergency Physicians, American Hospital Association, American Heart Association, American Medical Association, American Medical Group Association, American Nurses Association, American Telemedicine Association, Children’s National Hospital, eHealth Initiative, Federation of American Hospitals, Health Innovation Alliance, HIMSS, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association of Community Health Centers, National Association of Rural Health Clinics, National Rural Health Association, Personal Connected Health Alliance, and Teladoc Health.

“To build on the important actions taken during the COVID-19 public health emergency, to prepare us for any future public health emergency and to ensure that providers and patients do not lose access to telehealth supported care when the COVID-19 emergency concludes, Congress must act to advance telehealth payment reform, particularly through Medicare. I am grateful that the CONNECT for Health Act of 2021 does just that,” said Dr. Karen Rheuban, Director of the UVA Center for Telehealth. 

Sen. Warner, an original cosponsor of the 2016 CONNECT for Health Act, and Sen. Kaine have been longtime advocates for increased access to health care through telehealth. Last year, during the height of the COVID-19 crisis, the Senators sent a letter to Senate leadership calling for the permanent expansion of access to telehealth services. In 2018, Sen. Warner successfully included a provision to expand telehealth services for substance abuse treatment in the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018. In 2003, then-Gov. Warner expanded Medicaid coverage for telemedicine statewide, including evaluation and management visits, a range of individual psychotherapies, the full range of consultations, and some clinical services, including in cardiology and obstetrics. Coverage was also expanded to include non-physician providers. Among other benefits, the telehealth expansion allowed individuals in medically underserved and remote areas of Virginia to access quality specialty care that isn’t always available at home.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Tim Kaine (both D-VA), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act 2.0. This legislation would provide a new source of funding for the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Gabriella Miller Kids First Pediatric Research Program (Kids First) by redirecting penalties collected from pharmaceutical, cosmetic, supplement, and medical device companies that break the law to pediatric and childhood cancer research. In 2014, Warner and Kaine championed the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, which established the Ten-Year Pediatric Research Initiative at the NIH and authorized $12.6 million per fiscal year through FY23 for pediatric disease research. Since President Barack Obama signed the original bill in 2014, $88.2 million has been directed to pediatric cancer research at the NIH through the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research program. Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-VA-10) introduced a version of the legislation in the House of Representatives in January. 

The bill is named in honor of Gabriella Miller, a Leesburg, Virginia resident who died from a rare form of brain cancer at the age of 10. Miller was an activist and worked to raise support for research into childhood diseases like cancer until her death in October of 2013.

“We owe it to Gabriella, her family, and all the children who’ve lost their lives too soon to find a cure for these rare pediatric diseases,” said Warner. “I’m proud to be joining my colleagues on this bill that would provide an additional funding stream for critical research that could save lives.”

“Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among children, and we must better understand this horrific disease,” said Moran. “This legislation, named in honor of Gabriella Miller, will direct additional resources to the NIH to research cures and treatments for cancer in children.”

“Gabriella Miller was a passionate activist and fighter. We honor her memory by continuing her work in making sure pediatric disease research is a priority,” said Kaine. “This bipartisan legislation would provide a critical source of funding to improve research in pediatric cancer and diseases.”

“There’s nothing more heartbreaking than treating a suffering child. It’s critical that we fund more research to find new, innovative treatments,” said Dr. Cassidy. “This bill does just that while honoring Gabriella Miller’s memory.”

"I applaud the continued leadership of Senator Kaine and thank him for introducing the Gabriella Miller Kids First 2.0 Act, a bill to fund research for childhood cancer and other childhood illnesses," said Ellyn Miller, President of Smashing Walnuts Foundation. "In 2013, my 10-year old daughter died from the same terminal brain cancer that Neil Armstrong's daughter, Karen, died from in 1962. The fact that we can get astronauts to the moon and back but cannot cure something just a few inches under our skin is heartbreaking to me. Senator Kaine's championship of the Gabriella Miller Kids First 2.0 Act is that one giant leap towards better therapies for seriously ill children."

While cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among children past infancy, childhood cancer and other rare pediatric diseases remain poorly understood. According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 15,590 children and adolescents under the age of 19 will be diagnosed with cancer, and 1,780 will die of the disease in the United States in 2021. Only 4% of the National Cancer Institute’s $6.56 billion budget is specifically allocated to the development of treatments and cures for childhood cancer and other rare diseases.

The Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Program has supported critical research into pediatric cancer and structural birth defects and has focused on building a pediatric data resource combining genetic sequencing data with clinical data from multiple pediatric cohorts. The Gabriella Miller Kids First Data Resource Center is helping to advance scientific understanding and discoveries around pediatric cancer and structural birth defects and has sequenced nearly 20,000 samples thus far. While Congress has appropriated $12.6 million for the Kids First Program annually since Fiscal Year 2015, this legislation would make additional funding available to appropriators to further support pediatric and childhood cancer research.

The legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).

You can view the full bill text here

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that Virginia will receive $79,907,625 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support 26 community health centers across the Commonwealth. The funding – which was made possible through the American Rescue Plan – will be awarded beginning in April by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

“For the past year, our community health centers have been on the front lines of providing care to our most vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 crisis,” said the Senators. “Thanks to the congressional passage and eventual signing of the American Rescue Plan, we are now able to provide these critical federal dollars so that our community health centers can continue to provide lifesaving care to the folks who need it the most.”

The funding for the 26 community health centers will be awarded as follows:

Recipient

City/Town

Award Amount

Neighborhood Health

Alexandria

$7,893,875

Blue Ridge Medical Center Inc.

Arrington

$1,861,750

Bland County Medical Clinic Inc. 

Bastian

$1,595,375

Free Clinic of the New River Valley, Inc. 

Christiansburg

$1,492,000

Piedmont Access to Health Services Inc. 

Danville

$3,666,625

Clinch River Health Services Inc. 

Dungannon

$950,375

Harrisonburg Community Health Center, Inc. 

Harrisonburg 

$3,441,625

St. Charles Health Council Inc. 

Jonesville

$3,021,125

Tri-Area Community Health 

Laurel Fork

$1,990,750

Loudoun Community Health Center

Leesburg

$3,976,500

Rockbridge Area Free Clinic 

Lexington

$1,629,000

Johnson Health Center 

Lynchburg

$4,305,625

Martinsville Henry County Coalition for Health and Wellness 

Martinsville

$1,435,875

Highland Medical Center 

Monterey

$822,750

Central Virginia Health Services, Inc. 

New Canton

$8,864,625

Peninsula Institute for Community Health, Inc. 

Newport News

$4,659,500

Eastern Shore Rural Health System, Incorporated 

Onancock

$5,704,750

Portsmouth Community Health Center, Inc. 

Portsmouth

$2,767,125

Daily Planet Inc. 

Richmond

$2,259,375

Richmond, City of 

Richmond

$2,991,625

Kuumba Community Health & Wellness Center, Inc. 

Roanoke

$2,461,625

Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems, Inc. 

Saltville

$3,039,750

Stony Creek Community Health Center 

Stony Creek

$889,500

Southern Dominion Health Systems, Inc.

Victoria

$2,379,875

Horizon Health Services, Inc. 

Waverly

$1,159,250

Greater Prince William Area Community Health Center, Inc. 

Woodbridge

$4,647,375

Health centers will be able to use these funds to support and expand COVID-19 vaccination, testing, and treatment for vulnerable populations; deliver needed preventive and primary health care services to those at higher risk for COVID-19; and expand health centers’ operational capacity during the pandemic and beyond, including modifying and improving physical infrastructure and adding mobile units. 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today applauded Senate passage of a bill that will help 14 rural health clinics across Virginia continue to serve patients during COVID-19.  

“Over the last year, rural clinics have been on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. But as a result of the pandemic, rural health care providers are facing significant financial distress,” said Sen. Warner. “Today, the Senate passed legislation to fix a mistake that was causing further financial uncertainty for many of these clinics, which will allow them to continue serving rural communities across America both during and after COVID-19.” 

The Senate today amended and passed H.R. 1868, which makes several changes to Medicare and Medicaid to address the ongoing impact of COVID-19. The bill included a provision from Sen. Warner’s bipartisan legislation, the Strengthening Rural Health Clinics Act of 2021, making a technical fix to protect rural health clinics that were built between December 2019 and December 2020 from a sudden and unexpected Medicare payment rate change that was erroneously brought on by the December 2020 COVID-19 relief bill. Once signed into law, the following clinics in Virginia will be protected from the accidental rate cuts:

Shenandoah Medical Associates

Front Royal, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Clifton Forge, VA

Carilion Clinic Internal Medicine

Hardy, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Buena Vista, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Rocky Mount, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Buchanan, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Floyd, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Rocky Mount, VA

Carilion Clinic Family & Internal Medicine

Galax, VA

Carilion Clinic Family & Internal Medicine

Martinsville, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Tazewell, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Wytheville, VA

Carilion Clinic Family & Internal Medicine

Boones Mill, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Bedford, VA

The emergency COVID-19 relief bill that was signed into law in December included a provision to reform Medicare payment rates for future rural health clinics. While this provision intended to “grandfather” existing rural health clinics at their current payment rates in order to ensure their financial stability, a technical error ultimately excluded clinics that were established after December 2019. In order to protect these clinics from the chaos associated with a sudden payment rate change, Sen. Warner along with Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) earlier this week introduced the Strengthening Rural Health Clinics Act of 2021 to amend the law to grandfather in at the earlier payment rate all clinics that were built before December 2020, including the 14 clinics listed above. Sen. Warner’s bipartisan legislation would also grandfather in an additional 13 clinics in rural Virginia that were in “mid-build” or had already signed a lease or building agreement prior to December 31, 2020. A full list of those clinics is available here

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Rev. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) today introduced the Save Rural Hospitals Act of 2021 to fix a flawed formula that results in disproportionately low Medicare payments for hospitals in rural and low-wage areas. The bill would provide additional financial support for rural hospitals that are already operating on very thin margins and shutting down at record rates during the COVID-19 crisis – with more than 20 rural hospitals closing their doors in 2020 alone.

“In rural communities all over America, having a local hospital, as opposed to having to travel long distances for care, can mean the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis has only exacerbated the financial instability many of these facilities were already facing, putting them at greater risk for closure,” said Sen. Warner. “That’s why we’ve got to level the playing field for federal reimbursement rates so that rural hospitals have a fighting chance at keeping their doors open and continuing to provide lifesaving care.”

“Rural hospital closures mean a loss of access to medical care for the millions of Americans who chose to live in those areas. In addition, when a rural hospital closes, a community often loses one of its largest employers. Rural hospital closures are devastating to those communities. Rural hospitals have closed in record numbers in recent years and Tennessee is at the top of the list for the number of facilities lost. One contributing facture is an unfair reimbursement system that favors urban hospitals over rural, the Medicare area wage index. The Save Rural Hospitals bill is bipartisan legislation to create a floor to this calculation that will be a lifeline for the 1 in 4 rural hospitals that are in danger of closing. According to CMS, over 50 hospitals in TN stand to benefit from this legislation. When the rural hospitals benefit, communities benefit. This legislation will protect access to health care for millions of Tennesseans,” said Sen. Blackburn.

“Rural communities in Georgia and across the nation have been devastated by the public health and economic consequences of this once-in-a-century pandemic, and hospitals in these areas that were already struggling to make ends meet have been some of the hardest hit by this crisis. Health care is a human right, and the federal government has a deep role to play in making sure all Georgians, regardless of income or zip code, have access to the care they need to stay healthy and thrive, and so I’m glad to join my colleagues in supporting this common-sense, bipartisan legislation that will help target federal health care dollars to the communities where these investments are most sorely needed,” said Sen. Rev. Warnock.

“Too often, rural hospitals don’t have the necessary support they need to continue providing care for their local communities,” said Sen. Kaine. “With the increased pressure they’ve faced over the last year, it’s so important for Congress to pass this bipartisan legislation to ensure rural hospitals across the country — including 19 in Virginia— have access to the necessary resources to stay afloat and continue serving their communities amid COVID-19.” 

The Save Rural Hospitals Act of 2021 would help curb the alarming trend of hospital closures in rural communities by making sure hospitals are fairly reimbursed for their services by the federal government. The “Medicare Area Wage Index,” a formula used by Medicare to reimburse hospitals, is currently much lower for health care providers in rural communities, due to the fact that the formula is based on labor costs, which vary across the country. To make sure rural hospitals are fairly reimbursed, the Save Rural Hospitals Act of 2021 would establish a national minimum “area wage index” of 0.85.

This legislation comes at a crucial time during the unprecedented COVID-19 public health emergency and as hospitals in rural areas already face financial uncertainty. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals in many places, including Virginia, were ordered to postpone profitable elective surgeries in an effort to conserve hospital capacity and scarce supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Reporting indicates that rural hospitals are now closing at an alarming rate, with more than 130 rural hospitals around the nation having closed since 2010.

According to 2021 CMS data, 19 Virginia hospitals will directly benefit from the Save Rural Hospitals Act of 2021:

Johnston Memorial Hospital

Abingdon, VA

Lonesome Pine Hospital

Big Stone Gap, VA

LewisGale Hospital - Montgomery

Blacksburg, VA

Southampton Memorial Hospital

Franklin, VA

Twin County Regional Healthcare, Inc.

Galax, VA

Buchanan General Hospital

Grundy, VA

Sentara Rockingham Memorial Hospital

Harrisonburg, VA

Smyth County Community Hospital

Smyth, VA

Memorial Hospital

Martinsville, VA

Riverside Shore Memorial

Nassawadox, VA

Norton Community Hospital

Norton, VA

Wellmont Mountain View Regional Medical Center

Norton, VA

LewisGale Hospital - Pulaski

Pulaski, VA

Clinch Valley Medical Center

Richlands, VA

Russell County Medical Center

Russell, VA

VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital

South Hill, VA

Riverside Tappahannock Hospital

Tappahannock, VA

Carilion Tazewell Community Hospital

Tazewell, VA

Wythe County Community Hospital

Wytheville, VA

 

The Save Rural Hospitals Act of 2021 also boasts the support of the National Association of Rural Health Clinics, National Rural Health Association, Tennessee Hospital Association, University of Tennessee Medical Center (UTMC), Covenant Health and Blount Memorial Hospital, Virginia Rural Health Association, Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, and Ballad Health System.

“Medicare payment policies can at times have unintended consequences in rural health,” said Nathan Baugh, Director of Government Affairs for the National Association of Rural Health Clinics. “The Save Rural Hospitals Act will correct one of the flawed formulas contributing to the financial struggles of rural providers.”

“It is critical that we protect rural hospitals so individuals and families in less populated communities in Virginia, and across the United States, can access essential medical services when they need them 24/7/365,” said Sean T. Connaughton, President and CEO of Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association. “The COVID-19 pandemic is a stark reminder of the importance of access to hospital-based acute care services at a moment’s notice when seconds and minutes truly matter. Across the country, 180 rural hospitals have closed in the past 17 years, including two in Virginia since 2013. Senator Warner’s Save Rural Hospitals Act of 2021 is a welcome proposal that recognizes the challenging conditions facing many rural hospitals and offers a common sense solution to appropriately adjust reimbursement rates so hospitals aren’t unfairly penalized under an outdated payment methodology that fails to account for current realities.”

“In the struggle to provide health care access, rural hospitals are on the front line nationwide for large numbers of our most vulnerable citizens,” said Alan Levine, Executive Chairman and CEO of Ballad Health, an integrated delivery system in the Appalachian Highlands of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. “The Save Our Rural Hospitals Act will fix long-standing problems in Medicare payment policy which has underpaid rural hospitals year after year, leaving many struggling financially or at worst, closing. This bill recognizes that rural hospitals are increasingly having to recruit nationwide for nurses and other staff in short supply, and Medicare’s Area Wage Index adjustments must account for that.”

Sen. Warner has been a champion for rural health care in Virginia. Earlier this week, Sen. Warner introduced the bipartisan Strengthening Rural Health Clinics Act that would protect nearly 30 rural health clinics in Virginia from unexpected payment cuts. Sen. Warner has also led efforts in Virginia to reopen the closed rural hospital in Lee County, Virginia. The Lee County hospital has now reopened as an urgent care facility and is on track to fully reopen as a hospital later this year.

A copy of the bill text can be found here. A one-page summary can be found here.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced legislation today to prevent further financial instability for rural health clinics and safeguard the care they provide to underserved communities. The bipartisan Strengthening Rural Health Clinics Act of 2021 would make a technical fix to protect existing rural health clinics from a sudden and unexpected Medicare payment rate change that was erroneously brought on by the December 2020 COVID-19 relief bill

“In the past year, rural health clinics have played an essential role in bringing urgent and lifesaving care to some of our most vulnerable communities. Unfortunately, this crisis has served to further throw these facilities into financial distress,” said Sen. Warner. “By fixing a legislative error, our bill will help avoid further financial volatility and allow rural health clinics in Virginia and across the country to continue serving the communities that need it the most.”

“Many Missourians rely on rural health clinics for affordable, quality care close to home,” said Sen. Blunt. “This bill will fix a technical error to protect these clinics from added financial strain on top of the challenges they’ve faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. I urge our colleagues to join us in supporting the vital role these clinics play in improving health care - and the quality of life - in rural communities.”

The emergency COVID-19 relief bill that was signed into law in December included a provision to reform Medicare payment rates for future rural health clinics. While this provision intended to “grandfather” existing rural health clinics at their current payment rates in order to ensure their financial stability, a technical error ultimately excluded clinics that were established after December 2019. As a result, hundreds of rural health clinics nationwide, and even more clinics that were in the “mid-build” phase, now face serious financial uncertainty. Among these are nearly 30 clinics in Virginia:

Shenandoah Medical Associates

Front Royal, VA

Valley Health Family Practice

Rutherford Crossing, VA

New Warren Memorial Hospital Campus

Front Royal, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Clifton Forge, VA

Carilion Clinic Internal Medicine

Hardy, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Buena Vista, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Rocky Mount, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Buchanan, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Floyd, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Rocky Mount, VA

Carilion Clinic Family & Internal Medicine

Galax, VA

Carilion Clinic Family & Internal Medicine

Martinsville, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Tazewell, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Wytheville, VA

Carilion Clinic Family & Internal Medicine

Boones Mill, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Bedford, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Hillsville, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Bluefield, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Raphine, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Lexington, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine – Westlake

Hardy, VA

Volens Family Medicine

Nathalie, VA

Clarksville Family Medicine

Clarksville, VA

Sentara Obstetrics & Gynecology

South Boston, VA

Halifax Pediatrics

South Boston, VA

Chase City Family Medicine

Chase City, VA

Halifax Family Medicine

South Boston, VA

In order to protect these clinics from the chaos associated with a sudden payment rate change, this legislation would amend existing law to grandfather at the 2020 or first-year payment rate any qualified rural health clinic that was in existence, in “mid-build”, or that had either submitted an application or had a binding written agreement with an outside unrelated party for the construction, purchase, lease, or other establishment of such a rural health clinic prior to December 31, 2020.  

This legislation has the support of a number of organizations including the National Association of Rural Health Clinics (NARHC), National Rural Health Association (NRHA), Virginia Rural Health Association (VRHA), Virginia Healthcare and Hospital Association, Missouri Hospital Association, Missouri Rural Health Association, West Virginia Hospital Association, Carilion Clinic, Valley Health System, Sentara Healthcare, Forrest General Hospital, Highland Community Hospital, Marion General Hospital, Walthall General Hospital, Jefferson Davis Community Hospital, Pearl River County Hospital, Braden Health, Braden Patient Safety Organization, Mississippi Hospital Association, and McLaren Health Care.

“In December, Congress passed significant and positive payment reforms for rural health clinics,” said Nathan Baugh, Director of Government Affairs for the National Association of Rural Health Clinics. “This legislation will ensure that all rural health clinics in existence at the time the law was changed, as well as those who were in the process of becoming a rural health clinic, are fairly grandfathered into the program.”  

“On behalf of Valley Health which serves communities in VA and WVA,  I would like to thank Senators Warner and Blunt for introducing this important legislation. Rural health clinics are the life blood of healthcare delivery in these rural underserved areas. Ensuring that Rural Health Clinics receive proper reimbursement is critical to their continued sustainability. This legislation addresses the concerns of many across the country that were developing rural clinics in previous years and will go a long way in protecting access to care in these communities which is especially important during the pandemic,” said Mark Nantz, President & CEO of Valley Health System.

“The past year has again reminded us of the critical importance of protecting and strengthening access to health care for all people, including those in rural communities,” said Sean T. Connaughton, President and CEO of Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association. “This legislation aims to correct an oversight in existing law to ensure the adequacy of Medicare reimbursements for designated health care providers treating patients in underserved rural communities. We appreciate the work of Senator Warner and Senator Blunt in sponsoring the Strengthening Rural Health Clinics Act of 2021 and we are proud to support it.”

“Thank you to Senator Warner for his ongoing efforts to assist citizens in rural areas of the Commonwealth with sustainable and expanded access to affordable, high quality health care,” said Nancy Howell Agee, President and CEO of Roanoke-based Carilion Clinic. “Much of Carilion's service area is rural with an aging population. Our community needs assessments consistently reflect concerns about access to primary and specialty care. Our Rural Health Clinics and expanded digital solutions, including telehealth, help us better serve the health care needs in the region and provide more sustainable access to care. Senator Warner has consistently worked to ensure that health care services are available for our rural citizens to the greatest degree possible. His efforts to help stabilize access to these services through our Rural Health Clinics is important and appreciated.”

A copy of the bill is available here. A one-page summary can be found here

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $4,387,500.00 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)'s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) to support COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Virginia.

“As more Americans receive one of the three COVID-19 vaccines, the supply of available vaccines still can't meet the demand,” said the Senators. “We are glad to announce that this funding will provide increased support to distribute vaccines equitably throughout the Commonwealth, and we remain committed to ensuring that every Virginian has access to the vaccine as quickly as possible.”

The American Rescue Plan included $7.5 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for COVID–19 vaccine distribution and administration, including support for State, local, Tribal, and territorial public health departments. 

###

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that seven Virginia tribes have been awarded $724,246 in federal funding for housing assistance as a result of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

“We’re pleased to announce this funding to expand access to affordable housing for Virginia’s tribes during this health crisis,” the Senators said. “These grants will help ensure these communities have a safe and affordable place to live during and after the pandemic.”

 The following Virginia tribes will receive funding as listed below:

  • The Chickahominy Indian Tribe in Providence Forge will receive $181,184 to develop and manage affordable housing.
  • The Chickahominy Indian Tribe-Eastern Division in Providence Forge will receive $35,624 to develop and manage affordable housing.
  • The Monacan Indian Nation in Amherst will receive $208,875 to develop and manage affordable housing.
  • The Nansemond Indian Tribe in Suffolk will receive $97,413 to develop and manage affordable housing.
  • The Pamunkey Indian Tribe in King William will receive $35,007 to develop and manage affordable housing.
  • The Rappahannock Tribe, Inc. in Indian Neck will receive $44,068 to develop and manage affordable housing.
  • The Upper Mattaponi Tribe in King William will receive $122,075 to develop and manage affordable housing.

The grant was awarded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) Program. The IHBG provides grants, loan guarantees, and technical assistance to Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages for the development and operation of affordable housing. The American Rescue Plan Act contains over $32 billion in targeted funding for Tribal governments and Native communities. 

In 2018, a bipartisan Warner and Kaine bill to grant federal recognition to six Virginia tribes was signed into law. The legislation granted these six Virginia tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government, allowing the tribes to compete for grants only open to federally recognized tribes.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and 26 of their Senate colleagues introduced the Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act of 2021 in an effort to undo Trump-era rulemaking and guidance that, if fully enacted, would destabilize the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance market, weaken protections for Americans with preexisting conditions, and increase costs for millions of individuals with quality health plans. With nearly 30 million Americans diagnosed with COVID-19 – a disease disproportionately affecting minority populations – this legislation would ensure that health coverage for individuals living with preexisting conditions meets the ACA’s minimum quality and consumer protection standards.

“In the midst of an unprecedented health crisis caused by COVID-19, we should make it easier, not harder, for more Americans to get access to affordable health care coverage. Unfortunately, the Trump administration used every tool at their disposal to undermine the success of the Affordable Care Act, including by flooding the health insurance market with plans that don’t offer protections for the 30 million Americans who’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19,” said Sen. Warner. “With millions of Americans diagnosed with COVID-19 – a disease that can cause long-term lingering effects and complications long after recovery – we hope to provide peace of mind for individuals searching for affordable health care coverage that meets their needs.”

“For the hundreds of millions of Americans who have pre-existing conditions like arthritis, cancer, heart disease, asthma, diabetes, kidney disease, or pregnancy, it is critical that health insurance fully protect them and cover essential health benefits. The Trump Administration’s 1332 Waiver Guidance was one of many, blatant examples of the previous administration’s lack of support in protecting those with pre-existing conditions,” said Sen. Cardin. “It is essential that Congress restore the 1332 Waiver Guidance to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions from being left with higher out-of-pocket costs for less services, now including tens of millions who have recovered from COVID-19.”

“The Trump administration’s dangerous efforts to undermine and unravel the Affordable Care Act – and in the middle of the greatest health crisis of our lifetime – is shameful. It also demands a robust response to mitigate the damage done and ensure every American has access to the quality, affordable care they deserve. That’s precisely what this legislation aims to do,” said Sen. Shaheen. “Our legislation would reverse President Trump’s rule that promoted “junk health plans” which exclude safeguards for those with pre-existing conditions. Millions of Americans and thousands of Granite Staters live with pre-existing conditions, and that is not including the many who’ve been afflicted with COVID-19 which very well may be considered a pre-existing condition in the future. We cannot – now or ever – allow Americans with pre-existing conditions to be denied the care and coverage they need and deserve. Health care is a right, not a privilege.”

“It’s time to turn the page after the Trump Administration spent years sabotaging our health care system and threatening guaranteed protections for people with pre-existing health conditions,” said Sen. Baldwin. “We need to protect and expand access to affordable health insurance. Anyone who says they support quality health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions should support this legislation. This is an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to join together and protect people’s access to health care when they need it most.”

Since the ACA was signed into law in 2010, congressional Republicans have constantly attempted to overturn it. Unsuccessful in their legislative effort, the Trump administration carried the baton in an effort to bypass the consumer protections available for Americans under the ACA. 

Beginning in 2018, the Trump administration issued changes to the 1332 waiver guidance in its effort to sabotage Americans’ health care and undermine the critical preexisting condition protections that millions of Americans rely on. On January 14, 2021, on its way out the door, the Trump administration cemented its harmful October 2018 1332 wavier guidance – making it more difficult for future administrations to undo. Specifically, this rule gives states the green light to use taxpayer dollars to push “junk” health insurance plans that cost more and cover less. Under these plans, insurance companies can charge people more if they have a preexisting condition, can deny specific benefits – or can deny coverage altogether. In 2019, SenWarner led the entire Senate Democratic Caucus in introducing a resolution to force an up-or-down vote to reverse these harmful Section 1332 rule changes. Although SenWarner successfully forced a vote on this resolution, it was ultimately defeated by the Republican-led Senate.

The bill also boasts the support of numerous organizations, including the American Heart Association, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Alliance for Retired Americans, Virginia Poverty Law Center, Commonwealth Institute, March of Dimes, Hemophilia Federation of America, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Susan G. Komen, National Hemophilia Foundation, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, National Patient Advocate Foundation, Protect Our Care, Cancer Support Community, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Families USA, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), American Lung Association, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD).

“The importance of ensuring individuals have access to high quality, comprehensive and affordable health insurance coverage cannot be overstated,” said Lisa Lacasse, President, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “COVID-19 has certainly shone a spotlight on the impact of not having access to care for millions of people. However, the need for health insurance is not only about the current pandemic. This bill takes a critical step to help ensure individuals have the coverage they need when they need it, helping to reduce cancer disparities and improve cancer outcomes.”

“People with bleeding disorders and other serious health conditions rely on comprehensive health care coverage and stable insurance markets. HFA is pleased to support this bill which would roll back harmful guidance and rules released over the past three years, restoring key guardrails around the section 1332 waiver process,” said Sonji Wilkes, Vice President for Policy and Advocacy, Hemophilia Federation of America.

“The Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act would overturn dangerous CMS guidance that allows states to undermine critical protections for millions of Americans living with pre-existing conditions. Under the guidance issued in 2018, ‘state innovation waivers’ could allow for the sale of cheap, inadequate health insurance plans that can deny coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions, charge them more for being sick or retroactively rescind coverage. We thank Senator Warner for championing the patient protections under the Affordable Care Act that are strengthening access to life-saving care, and we urge lawmakers to support this important legislation,” said Emily Holubowich, Vice President of Federal Advocacy, the American Heart Association.

“The Virginia Poverty Law Center thanks Senator Warner for filing the Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act of 2021.  This legislation would reverse harmful actions taken by the previous administration and ensure that all consumer protections under the Affordable Care Act continue in states seeking certain waivers.  All consumers, especially lower income and vulnerable people with chronic health conditions, need and deserve these protections,” said Jill Hanken, Health Attorney, the Virginia Poverty Law Center.

“The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) is proud to support the Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act of 2021. Access to quality, affordable health care coverage is critical to Americans with preexisting conditions like asthma and plays an important role in addressing health disparities. Inadequate health insurance coverage remains unequally distributed along racial and ethnic lines, contributing to inequity in health outcomes. We thank Senators Warner, Cardin, Shaheen, and Baldwin for ensuring continued protections for individuals with preexisting conditions,” said Kenneth Mendez, President & CEO, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

“For more than a decade, cancer patients have relied on the vital protections provided by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Recent regulations expanded and promoted access to subpar insurance products, including Association Health Plans and short-term, limited-duration insurance (STLDI), which have undercut important patient protections and may leave patients vulnerable. These regulations also permitted states to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize inadequate insurance, exposing patients and consumers to greater risk while simultaneously increasing premiums for those who rely on the comprehensive coverage. This legislation is an important step in reining in subpar insurance and a critical component of ensuring patients have access to high-quality, affordable health insurance. We applaud Senator Warner for his leadership on this issue and look forward to working with Congress to protect the millions of Americans who live with a pre-existing condition,” said Gwen Nichols, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

In addition to Sens. Warner, Cardin, Shaheen, and Baldwin, the legislation is also cosponsored by Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Alex Padilla (D-CA).

A copy of the bill text can be found here. A copy of the bill summary can be found here.

The introduction of the Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act of 2021 comes on the heels of President Biden signing the American Rescue Plan into law, which includes key Warner health care priorities to expand access to affordable health care coverage for Americans during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. 

The American Rescue Plan offers states additional incentives to expand their Medicaid programs to millions more Americans. More than 4 million Americans are eligible for Medicaid under the federal expansion included in the ACA, but live in states that have elected not to expand their Medicaid programs. The American Rescue Plan encourages states to expand their Medicaid programs by offering a two year federal matching payment of 95 percent. Additionally, the American Rescue Plan also ensures that Americans have access to affordable health care coverage by extending premium assistance and capping health care costs at a maximum of 8.5 percent of household income. These provisions are similar to actions Sen. Warner called for in legislation he led this year – the SAME Act and Health Care Improvement Act.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, released a statement regarding the nomination of Xavier Becerra to be Secretary of Health and Human Services. Sen. Warner was unable to attend the nomination hearing for Becerra earlier today in the Finance Committee, as he was attending a meeting at the White House with President Biden on supply chain security. 

“Our next HHS Secretary will need to prioritize combatting the COVID-19 pandemic and building a health care system that’s better and more affordable for every American – something I stressed to Attorney General Becerra when we met privately earlier this year,” said Sen. Warner. “During that meeting we discussed his plans to implement a national strategy to combat COVID-19, reduce health care costs, increase access to affordable health care coverage, and address racial health disparities.”

“I am confident that if confirmed, Secretary Becerra would bring an important perspective to the Department – one that is reflective of Virginia’s diversity. I look forward to supporting his nomination on the Senate floor.”

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced $179,010,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Virginia.

“As our nation mourns 500,000 lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to distribute the vaccine is more urgent than ever,” said the Senators. “We are glad to announce that this funding will provide increased support to distribute vaccines equitably throughout the Commonwealth, and we remain committed to ensuring that every Virginian has access to the vaccine as quickly as possible.”

This funding, awarded through FEMA’s Public Assistance Program, will be overseen and distributed by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM). It can be used to support efforts to store, transport, secure, handle, announce, and administer the COVID-19 vaccine throughout the Commonwealth.   

The most recent COVID-19 package negotiated by Sen. Warner and supported by both senators included $19 billion for vaccines and therapeutics and $8.75 billion for states for vaccine distribution.   

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) sent a letter urging the Biden administration to take the necessary steps to ensure that residents in rural communities have access to the COVID-19 vaccine. The letter follows reporting that there are no pharmacies in Southwest Virginia participating in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination, a program that aims to expedite COVID-19 vaccine distribution by shipping vaccine doses directly to retail pharmacy locations.

“We have heard from a number of providers, community leaders, and other stakeholders expressing their concerns about a lack of adequate vaccine access in rural areas of Virginia. We understand that current vaccine doses are limited in every community and do believe that you are working in good faith to best distribute and administer a limited number of vaccine supplies. However, we are particularly concerned with recent reports that there are zero Southwest Virginia pharmacies participating in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program,” wrote the Senators to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Acting Secretary Norris Cochran and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky.

While the CDC lists CVS Pharmacy as the only retail partner in the program for Virginia, there are no CVS pharmacies in Southwest Virginia that are currently participating in the program. In their letter, the Senators applauded the program to help get more Americans vaccinated to better combat the COVID-19 health crisis, while underscoring the need for the program to include providers in Southwest Virginia.

“As you know, Americans in rural and underserved communities are more likely to be older or otherwise at-risk for developing severe infection from COVID-19. This reality makes it all the more important to appropriately expedite available vaccine doses to these communities. We appreciate that by launching the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, HHS and CDC have taken deliberate steps to implement a national vaccination strategy, but we must make sure this national strategy appropriately includes rural communities,” they continued. “We urge you to work with stakeholders in Virginia to expand the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program to include providers in Southwest Virginia. Additionally, we ask that you further examine the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program and your national vaccination strategy to ensure that it includes a plan for equitable vaccine distribution and administration in rural communities.”

A copy of the letter is found here and below.

 

Dear Acting Secretary Cochran and Director Walensky:

Thank you for your work thus far to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in Virginia and nationally. As the Biden administration continues to ramp up efforts to get more Americans vaccinated, we are writing to request that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) work closely with states and local governments to ensure the equitable distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccine doses in rural and medically underserved communities. Specifically, we ask that you take the necessary steps of ensuring the newly launched Federal Retail Pharmacy Program has a sufficient number of participating pharmacy partners in rural Southwest Virginia communities.

We have heard from a number of providers, community leaders, and other stakeholders expressing their concerns about a lack of adequate vaccine access in rural areas of Virginia. We understand that current vaccine doses are limited in every community and do believe that you are working in good faith to best distribute and administer a limited number of vaccine supplies. However, we are particularly concerned with recent reports that there are zero Southwest Virginia pharmacies participating in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.

As you know, Americans in rural and underserved communities are more likely to be older or otherwise at-risk for developing severe infection from COVID-19. This reality makes it all the more important to appropriately expedite available vaccine doses to these communities. We appreciate that by launching the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, HHS and CDC have taken deliberate steps to implement a national vaccination strategy, but we must make sure this national strategy appropriately includes rural communities.

We urge you to work with stakeholders in Virginia to expand the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program to include providers in Southwest Virginia. Additionally, we ask that you further examine the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program and your national vaccination strategy to ensure that it includes a plan for equitable vaccine distribution and administration in rural communities.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of this request, and we look forward to hearing back from you. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions or need additional information from us or our staff.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $4,000,000 in federal funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority to help expand access to and improve the quality of mental health and substance abuse programs.

“Over the course of the pandemic, we have seen an increased demand for mental health and substance abuse services,” said the Senators. “We are glad to announce that this funding will provide increased support to expand access to mental health and substance abuse services and treatment in Richmond.” 

During the pandemic, the U.S. Census Bureau has reported that more than a third of Americans were suffering from symptoms of anxiety and depression.

The most recent COVID-19 package negotiated by Sen. Warner and supported by both senators included $4.5 billion in mental health and substance abuse services. It also included additional funding for suicide and childhood trauma programs. 

The funding was awarded through the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) Expansion grant program, which seeks to increase access to and improve the quality of community mental and substance use disorder treatment services through the expansion of CCBHCs.

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Rev. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) were joined by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Angus King (D-ME), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), and Chris Coons (D-DE) in introducing legislation to incentivize Medicaid expansion nationwide, bring needed federal dollars to states, and promote health care access for low-income Americans amid the current health and economic crisis.

The States Achieve Medicaid Expansion (SAME) Act of 2021 would allow states that expanded Medicaid after 2014, or who expand Medicaid in the years ahead, to receive the same full federal matching funds as states that expanded Medicaid earlier under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. 

“The COVID-19 crisis has destroyed jobs all across America, costing millions of people their employer-provided health benefits at a time when health insurance could make or break a family financially,” said Sen. Warner, a former Virginia governor. “Not only will this legislation encourage Medicaid expansion, which has been shown to improve health outcomes, it will also bring crucial federal dollars back to Virginia. With state and local governments drowning in red ink as they work to combat this virus, I can’t think of a better time to ensure that states like Virginia, which expanded Medicaid after 2014, get their fair share of federal funding.”

“Health care is a human right, and for too long, too many Georgians have been denied access to affordable health care through Medicaid,” Sen. Reverend Warnock said. “I’ve long believed that expanding Medicaid in Georgia is an important step toward making affordable health care for all a reality; in 2017 I was even arrested at the U.S. Capitol for advocating for Medicaid expansion. Now, as a voice for Georgia in the U.S. Senate, I’m proud to join Sen. Warner in introducing the SAME Act to encourage states like Georgia to expand critical Medicaid coverage to those who need it most, and help ensure during this pandemic and beyond that families are able to get the health care they need to not just survive, but thrive.”

The SAME Act would ensure that the fourteen states that chose to expand Medicaid after January 1, 2014 are eligible for the same level of federal matching funds as those that expanded earlier under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. These states include Alaska, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Virginia, where Medicaid expansion went into effect on January 1, 2019, allowing more than 400,000 Virginians to access low-cost or no-cost healthcare coverage under Medicaid.

The Affordable Care Act provides financial support from the federal government to states that have expanded their existing Medicaid programs to provide health care coverage to all individuals up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The federal government covers the full cost of expansion for three years, phasing down to a 90 percent match rate for the sixth year of the expansion and in subsequent years. In passing the Affordable Care Act, Congress intended for all states to expand Medicaid in 2014. However, the Supreme Court’s holding in National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) v. Sebelius made expansion optional for states. As a result, states choosing to expand coverage after 2014 do not receive the same federal matching rates as those that expanded immediately.

The SAME Act would address this discrepancy by ensuring that any states that expand Medicaid receive an equal level of federal funding for the expansion, regardless of when they chose to expand. Under the bill, a state would receive three years of full federal funding, phasing down to a 95 percent Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) in Year 4; a 94 percent federal contribution in Year 5; 93 percent in Year 6; and, 90 percent for each year thereafter.  

The SAME Act would save Virginia’s hospitals an estimated $300 million per year in the first three years of implementation, according to the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association. That increased federal funding under the SAME Act will be especially meaningful in medically underserved areas, where patients are more likely to be uninsured and hospitals have struggled to stay afloat financially and keep their doors open, a problem that has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. In Virginia, three rural hospitals – in Norton, Patrick County and Lee County – have closed since 2013. 

Currently, 39 states and the District of Columbia have adopted Medicaid expansion, including Oklahoma and Missouri which passed ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid in 2021. In the twelve states that have not yet expanded their programs as envisioned under the Affordable Care Act, more than 2 million low-income adults fall into a “coverage gap,” due to incomes that are too high to be eligible for Medicaid, but are too low to meet the limit that would allow them to receive tax credits to purchase affordable coverage in the health care marketplace. Without Medicaid expansion, most of these individuals are likely to remain uninsured, as they have limited access to employer coverage and frequently find the cost of unsubsidized marketplace coverage to be prohibitively expensive. 

Numerous studies have shown that expanding Medicaid benefits states directly and indirectly, in the form of jobs and earnings growth, additional federal revenue, increased Gross State Product, increased state and local revenues and reduced uncompensated care and hospital costs. 

“The SAME Act would give states a powerful incentive to broaden access to their Medicaid programs by providing full federal support for the first three years. This incentive was previously available when states could begin their expansion efforts in 2014, resulting in millions of people with cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions gaining access to quality health coverage. We urge lawmakers to support this important legislation to help ensure their constituents can get the care they need,” said Emily Holubowich, Vice President of Federal Advocacy for the American Heart Association. 

“During this continued COVID-19 pandemic ensuring Virginian’s health needs are covered is more important than ever. Senator Warner’s legislation strengthens Virginia’s expanded Medicaid program, which has extended quality health care coverage to over 500,000 individuals. We strongly support this legislation and the Senator’s efforts to expand quality health care coverage to more Virginians,” said Jill Hanken, Health Attorney for the Virginia Poverty Law Center.

“Good health is essential to thriving communities, and the expansion of Virginia’s Medicaid program in 2018 has led to over 500,000 people gaining access to quality health coverage — many for the first time. Senator Warner’s legislation will strengthen the Commonwealth’s Medicaid program by ensuring Virginia receives its fair share of federal matching payments. It will also improve access to health coverage nationally by encouraging additional states to expand their Medicaid programs. We thank Senator Warner for introducing this important legislation,” said Freddy Mejia, Health Policy Analyst for the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis.

This legislation has the support of numerous health organizations, including the Alliance for Retired Americans, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, America’s Essential Hospitals, American Association of Medical Colleges, Center for Medicare Advocacy Inc., Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Children's Defense Fund, The Commonwealth Institute, Families USA, Justice in Aging, Mental Health America, March of Dimes, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), National Association of Community Health Centers, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, National Health Law Program, Protect Our Care, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Virginia Poverty Law Center, and Young Invincibles. 

Text of this legislation is available here. A summary is available here.  

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Washington, DC – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), as well as Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA), in introducing the bipartisan, bicameral COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act which would require the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to issue an emergency temporary standard requiring mine operators to establish a plan to tackle occupational COVID-19 exposure and provide miners with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE). Additional information on the COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act can be found here.

“COVID-19 is a very real threat for Virginia’s coal miners, who are often unable to practice social distancing as they work in confined spaces for extended periods of time,” said Senator Warner. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation to ensure that miners in Southwest Virginia and throughout the country have the resources they need to properly protect themselves and limit their exposure to this dangerous and increasingly contagious virus.”

“Our miners risk their lives every day to power our nation and during the COVID-19 pandemic, that risk is even greater for our brave miners,” said Senator Manchin. “The bipartisan, bicameral COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act will instruct DOL to create safeguards and provide PPE to ensure our miners are protected from exposure to COVID-19 in the mines. I will continue to work with my bipartisan colleagues, DOL and the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) to pass this commonsense legislation to help our miners stay safe during the pandemic as they continue to provide Americans with the power we need every day.”

“For centuries, our miners have worked tirelessly to power America and keep the lights on. It is vital that we take the necessary steps to provide them safety and job security as we continue to battle COVID-19,” said Senator Capito.


“Our nation’s miners have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to supply our energy needs at greater risk to themselves,” Senator Durbin said. “I am proud to help introduce the bipartisan COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act with my colleagues. This bill will ensure that our hard working miners are provided with proper PPE and that safeguards are put into place to decrease the risk of workplace exposure to this deadly virus.”

“Coal miners have worked tirelessly in dangerous conditions to power our communities, and now we must help ensure they can stay safe amidst the risks of COVID-19,” said Senator Kaine. “We must pass this bipartisan legislation to provide our nation’s miners with the necessary tools to limit their exposure to COVID-19.”

“Throughout a pandemic that has cost more than 440,000 Americans their lives, our Nation’s miners have continued to bravely go to work every day,” said Senator Casey. “We need to put in place enforceable workplace safety standards to protect miners from COVID-19 exposure on the job and to keep them, their families and their communities safe.”

“Ohio miners have put their health at risk for years to power our country,” said Senator Brown. “And now they’re facing more danger, as working conditions put them at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. MSHA needs to issue an enforceable safety standard to protect these miners from infectious disease, and we need to ensure these workers have the personal protective equipment they need to prevent exposure.”

“In Northeastern Pennsylvania, where mine workers’ organizing is a time-honored tradition, we know how important it is to ensure they are protected. As they continue to work in close quarters and tough conditions, miners remain at high risk for COVID-19 infection. This is a bill supported by both Democrats and Republicans that would implement responsible safety guidance and deliver personal protective equipment so that miners can continue to work, stay healthy and provide for their families during this health crisis,” said Representative Cartwright.  

 

The COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act

The COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act would direct the Secretary of Labor to issue an emergency temporary standard that requires mine operators to:

  • Develop and implement a comprehensive infectious disease exposure control plan to protect miners from COVID-19 exposure at the mines;
  • Provide personal protective equipment to miners;
  • Incorporate guidelines from the CDC, NIOSH, and relevant scientific research;
  • In coordination with CDC and NIOSH, track, analyze, and investigate mine-related COVID-19 infections data in order make recommendations and guidance to protect miners from the virus.

Bill text can be found here.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced $1,022,77 in federal funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Loudoun County. Specifically, the funding will be used to support efforts to store, handle, transport, distribute and administer the vaccine against COVID-19.

“We are glad to announce that these federal dollars will go towards getting vaccines out to more folks in Loudoun County,” said the Senators. “We remain committed to tackling this crisis and doing everything in our power to help boost vaccination rates across the Commonwealth.”

The most recent COVID-19 relief package negotiated by Sen. Warner and supported by both senators included more than $19 billion for vaccines and therapeutics and an additional $8.75 billion to support vaccine distribution at the local and state level.

Under Governor Northam’s Major Disaster Declaration to help Virginia respond to COVID-19, localities can apply for funding to support vaccine distribution from FEMA. Loudoun County is the second of the Commonwealth’s localities to apply for – and receive – the funding, following a funding announcement for Arlington County last week. 

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WASHINGTON – With the Biden administration set to unveil details on a series of executive ordersto reverse his predecessor’s relentless efforts to sabotage the success of the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) will introduce the Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 to help counter the devastating effects the health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19 has had on the record high number of people lacking insurance across the country. Specifically, the Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 aims to protect health care coverage for Americans living with preexisting conditions while also expanding access to quality and affordable health care coverage for working families.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans have lost their employer-provided insurance. Amid one of the most unprecedented health and economic health crises our country has faced where an alarming number of Americans already lack health insurance, now is the time to deploy tools to meet the demands on our health care system. As the Biden administration readies its executive orders to expand health care coverage – including reopening the enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act  – I’m also introducing legislation that would support the administration’s effort to get more families affordable health care coverage,” said Sen. Warner. 

The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 would lower costs for working families by:

·       Capping health care costs on the ACA exchanges: The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 will ensure no individual or family pays more than 8.5 percent of their total household income for their health insurance. Currently, no family making more than 400 percent of the federal poverty line ($51,040 for an individual in 2020) is eligible for premium assistance on the ACA exchanges. This provision – which is supported in President Biden’s American Rescue Plan – expands premium assistance to individuals making more than 400 percent of the federal poverty line and places a cap on insurance costs for all individuals and families on the ACA exchanges. 

·       Establishing a low-cost public health care option: The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 will also require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to create a low-cost, public health care option for individuals who are eligible to enroll for health care coverage via the ACA exchanges. Establishing a public health care option will increase competition and ensure an added lower cost health care option for more American families.

·       Authorizing the federal government to negotiate prescription drug prices: Under existing federal law, the government is explicitly banned from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices. The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 will allow the federal government to leverage its purchasing power to negotiate prices and reduce drug costs for more than 37 million seniors on Medicare.

·       Allowing insurers to offer health care coverage across state boundaries:The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 will allow insurers to offer health care coverage across state boundaries, increasing choice and competition among plans and driving down costs while maintaining quality, value and strong consumer protections.

·       Supporting state-run reinsurance programs: The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 will create a new “State Health Insurance Affordability and Innovation Fund” to support state run reinsurance programs and additional state efforts to reduce premium costs and expand health care coverage. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has previously estimated such programs could reduce health care premiums by 8 percent within one year.

The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 will increase access to affordable health care coverage by:

·       Incentivizing states to expand Medicaid: If all states were to expand their Medicaid programs, the number of uninsured Americans would decrease by more than 2 million. The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 will provide additional incentive to states to expand their Medicaid program by temporarily increasing federal matching funds to states that expand their programs and reducing existing administrative payments to states that do not expand their programs. It would also provide retroactive payments to states like Virginia that were late to expand Medicaid and have not received their fair share of federal matching payments. 

·       Expanding Medicaid eligibility for new moms: The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 will allow states to provide new mothers up to 12 months of postpartum Medicaid eligibility. This provision would significantly improve maternal health outcomes by ensuring mothers have access to vital health care services during the immediate months after giving birth.

·       Simplifying enrollment: There are over 7 million Americans currently eligible for cost-free Medicaid coverage, but who are not enrolled due a variety of factors including unnecessary paperwork and a confusing enrollment process. The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 will simplify Medicaid and CHIP enrollment by permanently authorizing the successful Medicaid Express Lane Eligibility program and expanding it to include adults. The Department of Health and Human Services will also be required to conduct a study and develop recommendations to allow states to further implement Medicaid and CHIP auto-enrollment for individuals eligible for cost-free coverage. 

·       Increasing Medicaid funding for states with high levels of unemployment: The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 will implement a counter-cyclical Medicaid matching payment from the federal government to ensure that states with high levels of unemployment receive a higher federal matching payment to appropriately account for an increase in Medicaid enrollment. This will ensure states can maintain affordable health care coverage during economic downturns and temporary periods of high unemployment.

·       Funding rural health care providers: Under current law, rural providers are unfairly compensated at a much lower rate than urban providers, making it more difficult for Virginia providers to keep their doors open in underserved communities. The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 will create a rural floor for the Area Wage Index formula the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid use to reimburse rural providers. Fixing the Area Wage Index will boost access to affordable health care coverage in Virginia’s rural and medically underserved communities.

·       Reducing burdens on small businesses: The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 will modernize ACA employer reporting requirements to ensure that businesses can provide comprehensive health care benefits to their employees without additional administrative costs or unnecessary paperwork.

“As Americans continue to face a once in a century public health crisis, Senator Warner is working to make health care more accessible and affordable for the American people. Senator Warner’s bill would take bold steps to reduce costs, expand coverage, and strengthen protections for people with pre-existing conditions at a time when access to affordable health care has never been more critical. Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans should work with Senate leadership to prioritize the health and well-being of Americans by building on the success of the Affordable Care and abandoning their health care sabotage agenda,” said Brad Woodhouse, Executive Director of Protect Our Care.

“The pandemic has exacerbated the deep, structural problems in our health care system: namely, cost is far too big of a burden and not enough people have adequate protection. We must make real reforms to health care, and Third Way applauds Senator Mark Warner for the leadership he has shown in the Health Care Improvement Act of 2020,” said Gabe Horwitz, Senior Vice President for the Economic Program at Third Way. “Among its very important provisions, this legislation would expand coverage by making enrollment in Medicaid automatic whenever a low-income uninsured patient accesses health care. As Third Way has long called for, automatic enrollment makes health care easier for people to navigate and is an important step to achieve universal coverage. The Warner legislation also builds on the Affordable Care Act and makes coverage affordable for millions of middle-class families who currently fall through gaps in the program. And it provides financial relief to states during economic downturns like the one we’re experiencing now by increasing the federal share of Medicaid payments to the states. Americans need far more security and stability in their health care, and we are excited about the vision shown in Senator Warner’s bill.”

“The Virginia Community Healthcare Association represents more than 150 health center sites, serving over 350,000 individuals across the Commonwealth with the goal of ensuring access to primary care for all Virginians. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the need for quality health care coverage more critical than ever. Senator Warner’s Health Care Improvement Act will advance our shared goal of reducing health care costs and expanding quality health care coverage to more Virginians. We thank him for introducing this legislation and look forward to working with him on this important effort,” said Rick Shinn, Director of Government Affairs for the Virginia Community Healthcare Association.

“Rising health care costs have increasingly become a burden for too many Virginians – making it more difficult to access quality and affordable health care coverage. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of ensuring every American has access to quality health care coverage, and also highlighted significant gaps in access to health care coverage for communities of color and people with low-incomes. Senator Warner’s legislation will improve access to quality health care by closing existing coverage gaps and reducing premiums costs for people who already have health care coverage. We look forward to working with Senator Warner to advance these important priorities,” said Freddy Mejia, Health Policy Analyst, The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis.

“The Virginia Poverty Law Center applauds Senator Warner’s introduction of comprehensive legislation on health care. The improvements in this bill address a wide range of critical issues that will reduce costs and expand access to care for consumers in Virginia and across the country. Specifically, we strongly support the Senator’s proposals that improve ACA health plan affordability, enhance premium assistance, provide additional incentives for states to expand their Medicaid programs, ensure continuity of health care for new mothers and reduce Medicare drug prices. We encourage Congress to move quickly on this vital legislation that will help so many consumers during and after the COVID pandemic,” said Jill Hanken, Health Attorney, the Virginia Poverty Law Center.

“We at the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) believe that access to quality health care is a right, not a privilege, and that access to comprehensive health services must be recognized and protected as a basic human right. Especially in light of this ongoing pandemic, we continue our commitment to ensuring health care for all. To that end, we support this effort to expand health care coverage in the U.S. AMSA especially supports Medicaid eligibility expansion, the simplification of enrollment procedures for Medicaid and SCHIP programs, and the expansion of federal financing. Moreover, we are excited to see efforts that work to reduce prescription drug prices and fight against surprise medical billing. AMSA applauds Senator Warner and the Health Care Improvement Act,” said Dr. Ali Bokhari, President of American Medical Student Association 

“The Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) is aware of how access challenges and high costs in our health care system disproportionally affect people with disabilities. We appreciate Senator Warner’s commitment to work closely with the disability community as he leads efforts to ensure Americans have access to the care and coverage they need.  AUCD supports the Health Care Improvement Act and its commitment to address the pressing needs of reducing health care costs and protecting the rights of people with disabilities,” said Rylin Rodgers, Policy Director of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities. 

This legislation also boasts the support of The Arc of Northern Virginia, The Autism Society of Northern Virginia, Healthcare for All Virginians Coalition, First Focus Campaign for Children, and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Bill text is available here. A bill summary is available here. A section-by-section explainer on the bill is available here.

With President Biden’s expected executive order announcement later today and the introduction of his American Rescue Plan, the Biden administration is set to act on additional priorities Sen. Warner has long called for to improve our nation’s health care system such as re-opening theAffordable Care Act exchanges so that more uninsured individuals can enroll in health care coverage. During the COVID-19 health crisis, Sen. Warner called on the Trump Administration and Congress to make this important change to address the health care coverage crisis we now face. 

In line with the forthcoming announcement by the Biden administration, Sen. Warner’s Health Care Improvement Act provides $100,000,000 in funding to support the administration’s effort to fully fund programs to help more Americans enroll in affordable health care coverage. Additionally, President Biden plans to roll back the Trump administration’s actions to sabotage the Affordable Care Act which has undermined our preparedness for and ability to respond to COVID-19 and protect health care coverage for millions of Americans. In 2019, Sen. Warner led the entire Senate Democratic Caucus in a legislative maneuver to protect health coverage  for Americans with preexisting conditions from the Trump Administration’s attempts to undermine those safeguards.

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WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner joined Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the only woman on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Representatives Barbara Lee (CA-13), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) and Ami Bera, M.D. (CA-07), in a bipartisan, bicameral reintroduction of the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (HER) Act in both the Senate and House of Representatives. The legislation would permanently repeal the harmful Global Gag Rule. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) also joined Shaheen to lead the introduction of the legislation in the Senate, which has 46 total cosponsors. The House companion legislation has 173 cosponsors.  

The Global Gag Rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy, is an executive order that bans federal funds for foreign non-governmental organizations that use non-U.S. funds to provide abortion services or provide information about abortion as part of comprehensive family planning services. This forces clinics to choose between providing limited reproductive health services while accepting U.S. foreign aid or providing inclusive family planning and reproductive health care with a limited budget. The ill-conceived policy was rescinded by the Obama administration, only to be reinstated and expanded under the Trump administration. President Trump expanded the policy numerous times during his term in office to unprecedented levels, all of which Senator Shaheen vehemently opposed. Yesterday, President Biden rescinded the policy. 

“The Global Gag Rule compromised women’s health and well-being in some of our most vulnerable communities around the world. The impact of the last administration’s actions to implement and significantly expand this policy will take years to repair,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m very pleased by President Biden’s decision to rescind this policy and I’m eager to work with his administration to build on that effort in Congress, starting with legislation I’ve introduced – the Global HER Act. The Global HER Act is a bipartisan bill to permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule, ensuring that women’s access to important health services are not dependent on the person in the White House. And a permanent repeal is needed now more than ever. The Trump administration’s unprecedented and exponential expansion of the Global Gag Rule cannot be repeated. Frontline organizations need certainty on funding and services so they can best serve their patients. The life and health of a mother on the other side of the world shouldn’t be at the whim of a President’s partisan politics. It’s time to end the Global Gag Rule.”  

“The Global Gag rule leaves behind a chilling effect every time the United States changes administrations, undercutting the longstanding goals of the policy,” said Congresswoman Lee. “This harmful policy interferes with doctor-patient relationships by restricting crucial information and health services for vulnerable communities around the world. We can no longer undermine the sustainability of global health programs and our pace of progress, so I’m proud to be co-leading this effort with my colleagues. I’m looking forward to advancing the Global HER Act in the House and Senate with an administration that understands the importance of this issue." 

“I want to applaud President Biden for taking the important step of issuing an Executive Order to repeal the Global Gag rule, saving lives and protecting the health of women around the world,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “Access to comprehensive reproductive health services and information will not only reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, but also prevent injuries and death that result from unsafe abortions. Once again, the United States, the single largest funder of global health, is stepping up to prevent negative maternal health outcomes. I am proud to co-lead the Global HER Act to permanently repeal this harmful policy and ensure that future Administrations don’t bring it back.”

“I’m grateful President Biden rescinded the Global Gag Rule, which jeopardizes life-saving global health programs and makes it even harder for women and families in vulnerable populations to access critical reproductive health care. This policy also hinders our ability to fight against epidemics like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. The Trump Administration shamefully expanded this policy, leading to disastrous results for women and families across the world at a time when the global community was already reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Congressman Bera. “Congress must act to ensure no future Administration can implement this harmful policy. I’m proud to join my colleagues in the House and Senate in reintroducing the Global HER Act to permanently end the Global Gag Rule and its attack on reproductive rights.” 

“The Global HER Act would allow U.S. global health assistance funding for foreign non-governmental organizations, using their own funds, to provide the full scope of family planning services to women in developing countries,” said Senator Collins. “The global gag rule forces health care organizations to make a Hobson’s choice:  either give up desperately needed funds for family planning and a broad array of other important health care services, or renege on their responsibility to provide patients with full and accurate medical information.  I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that U.S. investments in global health are effective and are administered efficiently.”

“In 2017, President Trump issued a presidential memorandum that restored the Mexico City policy, also known as the global gag rule. The expansion of this policy that occurred over the last four years had a detrimental impact on clinical providers, community health workers and public health partners around the world providing women and girls with essential services,” said Senator Murkowski.  “I’m proud to help reintroduce bipartisan, bicameral legislation which would permanently repeal that rule. By doing so, we remove eligibility restrictions that could unintentionally create barriers to critical, often life-saving services and help ensure women around the world have access to more comprehensive, quality healthcare.” 

The Global HER Act would: 

  • Ensure that eligible foreign NGOs can continue to operate U.S.-supported health programs abroad, particularly those that provide legal health services to women -- including counseling, referral, and legal abortion services -- with their own, non-U.S. funds; 
  • Guarantee that foreign NGOs will not be forced to sacrifice their right to free speech in order to participate in U.S.-supported programs abroad; and
  • Help expand access to health programs for women around the world to improve health and development outcomes for entire families, communities and developing countries.  

A member of both the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, Senator Shaheen has been a fierce advocate for women and girls around the globe, including advocating on behalf of family planning and women’s global health, spearheading efforts to end gender-based violence, authoring legislation to address barriers that girls around the world face in accessing education and securing women leadership roles in conflict resolution and peace negotiations

In addition to Sen. Warner, the Global HER Act is cosponsored by Senators Collins (R-ME), Murkowski (R-AK), Menendez (D-NJ), Baldwin (D-WI), Bennet (D-CO), Blumenthal (D-CT), Booker (D-NJ), Brown (D-OH), Cantwell (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE), Casey (D-PA), Coons (D-DE), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Duckworth (D-IL), Durbin (D-IL), Feinstein (D-CA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Hassan (D-NH), Hirono (D-HI), Kaine (D-VA), Kelly (D-AZ), King (I-ME), Klobuchar (D-MN), Leahy (D-VT), Markey (D-MA), Merkley (D-OR), Murphy (D-CT), Murray (D-WA), Ossoff (D-GA), Peters (D-MI), Reed (D-RI), Rosen (D-NV), Sanders (I-VT), Schatz (D-HI), Schumer (D-NY), Sinema (D-AZ), Smith (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Tester (D-MT), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warnock (D-GA), Warren (D-MA), Whitehouse (D-RI) and Wyden (D-OR).

The Global HER Act is endorsed by 132 organizations representing global health, women’s reproductive rights, women’s equality, civil rights and other relevant advocacy constituencies. The full list is available here 

Text of the Global HER Act can be read here

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