WINCHESTER — State Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Upperville, and Del. Wendy Gooditis, D-Clarke County, were presented Friday with a “HosPac Healthcare Hero” award from the political action committee for the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association.

Valley Health President and CEO Mark Merrill, who presented the awards in the courtyard of the Winchester Medical Center, thanked Vogel and Gooditis for their votes to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in Virginia last year.

“Over 300,000 Virginians are now covered who were not covered a year ago,” Merrill said.

Merrill also thanked Vogel for supporting legislation to improve access to autism treatments.

“Nothing is changing more quickly than healthcare,” Vogel said upon receiving her award. As the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Vogel said she struggles with the ever-present question of “how do you pay for it?”

Vogel said she was thankful for the expertise of the medical community. “I have an amazing ally,” she said.

Merrill said Gooditis has been “an unwavering champion” of healthcare access since she was elected in 2017. “Delegate Gooditis is one of the people who got Medicaid expansion across the finish line,” he said.

Gooditis said she is working on legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs and help pay for community services boards in advance of the 2020 legislative session in Richmond.

“The last time I was in that courtyard I was with my brother,” Gooditis said of the WMC courtyard and her late brother, who killed himself two years ago.

“I lost him,” Gooditis said, adding that he was sexually assaulted when he was 11. She said his death helps explain her dedication to healthcare access. “It was people like you ... dedicating your lives to helping people like him.”

— Contact Onofrio Castiglia at ocastiglia@winchesterstar.com

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