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March 8, 2016

Voices from the Coverage Gap: Sherrie Sauer, Hanover County

For the fourth consecutive legislative session, Virginia lawmakers will leave town with one critically important piece of business unfinished: helping people like Sherrie Sauer and the hundreds of thousands of others stuck in the state’s coverage gap get the health care they need.

Sherrie is 60 and works as a lab technician. She has custody of her granddaughter (age 9) and grandson (age 10) who have lived with her for most of their lives. Because of the responsibilities of caring for the children, she works part-time, earning about $12,000 per year.


Fortunately, the children have Medicaid, but Sherrie is not insured. As low as her income is, it’s still above the meager limit of $6,672 per year for her in a family of three to qualify for Medicaid, but less than the $20,100 per year to get affordable insurance on the federal Marketplace. And she’s too young to qualify for Medicare since she’s not 65.

Sherrie hasn’t seen a doctor in nine years. It’s not because she’s healthy – she has health problems that she fears are getting worse. It’s because she can’t afford to. “I’ve worked for 40 years, paid my taxes, and I’m raising my grandchildren on my own,” she says. “I struggle to pay our bills and worry about my health. It’s disgraceful that there’s no help for me now that I need it.”

If Sherrie lived in our neighboring communities of Washington, D.C., Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, or any of the 28 other states that have expanded Medicaid, she’d be able to get regular treatment and the peace of mind that comes with it. But Sherrie lives in Virginia, where state lawmakers have had ample opportunity to fix this problem but refuse. The governor and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have proposed workable solutions for closing the coverage gap over the last several years. They’ve implemented reforms to Medicaid. They’ve even had offers to pay for the new coverage, first from the federal government and then from Virginia’s hospitals. Every objection to closing the gap has been addressed. Yet nothing has moved within the walls of the General Assembly.

Outside those walls, though, back in lawmakers’ districts, where folks in the coverage gap live, it’s a different story. Life keeps moving there. And the stories of people stuck in the gap keep getting worse.

Sherrie’s story is just one of them. You can read five more here.

–Massey Whorley, Senior Policy Analyst

The Commonwealth Institute

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