Q&A: Sen. Favola discusses importance of health care policy
Senator Barbara Favola represents Virginia’s 31st district, which includes parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties and a portion of Loudoun County. She was elected in 2011 and is a whip in the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus and chairs the Virginia Senate’s Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee. She also chairs the Senate Women’s Health Care Caucus, and is a member and former chair of Virginia’s Commission on Youth.
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Shawna De La Rosa: Tell me why health care policy interests you.
Sen. Favola: “My background is in health care policy. I was a federal employee and served in the Arlington County government to improve the human service safety net and mental health service. I was involved in smart growth, which impacts the environment and health.
I really believe access to health care should be a human right. I don’t think you can pursue happiness if you can’t keep yourself well. It’s very value driven for me.”
SD: What legislative work makes you most proud?
BF: “Last session I completed a transformational bill on balanced billing, SB 172, a bill we’ve been trying to get through for the past 15 years. We finally came to an agreement. The patient is now only responsible for what they would be paying for out-of-network, but anything else will be negotiated and patients are protected. We had to develop a formula that is reasonable, uses geography and looks at what the private market will reimburse. I met with stakeholders three times a week. It was a huge undertaking. I had the help of highly respected lawmakers in the house. It was a bipartisan effort (Del. Luke Torian sponsored HB 1251) and included support from Del. Mark Sickles. We had the help of republicans.”
SD: How did the onset of the coronavirus pandemic affect your efforts?
BF: “March 12 I was driving home after the session, after the session was finished, and was listening the to governor’s stay-at-home order. We had just finished up. The Democrats had just taken control and we had all this pent up agenda we’d be sitting on for years. We had a very robust agenda. Luckily we got through it all before the pandemic.”
SD: What will you be working on this coming session?
BF: “Because of everything being virtual, it makes it hard to do legislation. The face-to-face actually matters. The governor wants me to do a bill that will facilitate entry into the state exchange. I’m also working to put together a health plan for those making 138 to 200 percent of the federal poverty level.”
SD: What will be the pros and cons of the upcoming session being virtual?
BF: “It will be easier for some folks to participate. It will be a barrier for stakeholders to follow the fast pace of the progress virtually. We will be limited to 12 senate bills and seven in the house.”