FISHERSVILLE — On Thursday, for once, the spotlight was not on the healthcare needs of Virginians, but on a man who has worked to improve accessibility to meet those needs.

Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mt. Solon, received the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association HosPac Healthcare Hero Award at Augusta Health.

“Sen. Hanger has had a career of being an advocate for healthcare accessibility,” said VHHA Vice President of Communications Julian Walker.

Hanger, elected to the 24th District in 1995, received the award based on his “body of work,” Walker said, including the expansion of Medicaid, providing further access to healthcare for Virginians and protecting healthcare providers from violence in the work place.

“I truly am humbled by this award, and the comments from you all,” said Hanger at Augusta Health Thursday.

Hanger said he hopes to always be associated with Augusta Health.

He has been at ceremonies at Augusta Health when the hospital received awards, “but this is the first time I’ve received an award myself. It’s kind of nice.”

Hanger said that politics in Virginia have “become rough and tumble,” but he has “really tried to serve the interests of the people he serves” and stay out of the political turmoil.

Hanger, who announced in early May his intention to run for reelection in the 24th District, said he looks forward to the opportunity to hopefully continue to represent Waynesboro, Staunton, Augusta County and parts of Culpeper, Greene, Madison and Rockingham counties.

“There’s still lots to do as you’re well aware in the healthcare industry,” Hanger said of his continued efforts to make healthcare available for more Virginians.

He added that he appreciates what Augusta Health does in providing healthcare.

“I just think it’s incredibly well deserved,” said Augusta Health President and CEO Mary Mannix after Hanger accepted his award.

Mannix said she admires that Hanger goes for policy in nonpartisan politics.

“He does what he thinks is right,” Mannix said. “In this day and age, I think he’s in a class all by himself.”

The VHHA HosPac Healthcare Hero Award was first given in 2016.

Mannix said the award is “very prestigious” and recognizes advocacy for healthcare for Virginians. Recipients of the award have gone above and beyond in their work to make healthcare accessible.

“I just think that it’s great to know the hard work that Sen. Hanger is doing for Medicaid expansion is being recognized,” said Mark LaRosa, vice president of business development at Augusta Health. “So that the community can know that thousands of individuals now have healthcare who did not have it before.”

After accepting his award, Hanger said the recognition is “significant,” and Augusta Health does a great job and does it with “quality service.”

“I support their mission,” he said.

Healthcare accessibility is not the only concern, according to Hanger. Affordability is also an issue for Virginians, but he said the Medicaid expansion has helped by providing healthcare for low income individuals.

“It’s working well,” Hanger said. In the immediate area, 10,000 individuals have gained access to healthcare thanks to the Medicaid expansion, as well as 35,000 in the region and 280,000 in Virginia.

“So, it’s moving right along,” he said of the expansion.

He is also working on a waiver that he hopes will receive Congressional approval by July. The waiver will provide a system of help for individuals battling drug addiction or mental health by making healthcare accessible to them. Hanger said the waiver would include a work requirement.

For the political naysayers who did not support the expansion, Hanger said it is already starting to work for Virginians, and has helped to stabilize the budget by encouraging the state’s credit agencies to clean up its Triple A bond rating.

The state’s economy is also moving as hoped because of the expansion.

“We’re strong,” Hanger said.

For those who thought Medicaid expansion would cost Virginia more money, Hanger said the initiative is actually saving the state money.

Taxpayers are not footing the bill for the expansion. The federal government provides 90 percent of the funding and 10 percent comes from the hospital association.

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