Virginia’s Minimum Wage Increase Causes Massive Health Care Layoffs


Virginia is one of the states that has gradually raised its minimum wage, from $7.25 to $15 per hour by 2026. While this policy is meant to raise low-wage workers’ living standards and minimize income inequality, it has had unforeseen repercussions for certain areas of the economy, particularly health care.

In this article, we will look at how Virginia’s minimum wage increase resulted in large layoffs for healthcare workers in 2024, as well as the implications for the state’s healthcare system and the impacted workers.

The Effect of the Minimum Wage Increase on the Healthcare Sector

The healthcare industry is one of Virginia’s top employers, employing over 400,000 people, many of whom make less than $15 per hour. Home health aides, personal care aides, nursing assistants, and other direct care professionals provide vital services to the aged, handicapped, and chronically sick.

Read more: South Carolina’s Minimum Wage Increase Causes Massive Health Care Layoffs

According to a Virginia Health Care Association research, raising the minimum wage would raise labor expenses in the long-term care market by 36% in 2024 and 101% by 2026, with no matching rise in state or federal reimbursement rates. This would place a significant financial strain on the business, which is already dealing with poor profit margins, high turnover rates, and workforce shortages.

To deal with rising labor costs, several healthcare providers have laid off employees, reduced hours, slashed benefits, and closed locations. Sentara Healthcare, a large health system in Virginia, for example, indicated that it will lay off 1,200 people and liquidate four facilities by 2024, citing the minimum wage increase as one of the reasons.

Other providers, including Riverside Health System, Bon Secours Health System, and Virginia Hospital Center, have announced similar intentions to cut their personnel and operations. According to the analysis, raising the minimum wage will cost 15,000 jobs and 150 long-term care facilities by 2026.

The Reactions of Workers and Advocates

Workers and supporters have expressed indignation and protests over the layoffs and closures, accusing healthcare providers of abusing their employees and risking patient care quality. Advocates claim that raising the minimum wage benefits workers not just financially, but also in terms of health, productivity, and retention, as well as reducing dependency on public assistance.

They also point out that the healthcare industry got billions of dollars in federal relief funding during the COVID-19 epidemic, which could have been utilized to offset labor costs and invest in the workforce.

Former Sentara employee Jasmine Jones slammed the move as “heartless and greedy.” She stated that she and her coworkers had worked hard and risked their lives throughout the epidemic and deserved fair compensation and respect.

She attended a demonstration outside a Sentara hospital in Norfolk organized by SEIU Virginia 512, a healthcare workers’ union. The union requests that healthcare providers use government relief funding to pay its employees a living wage and provide enough staffing and safety equipment.

Implications for the Health Care System and the Economy

The increase in the minimum wage offers substantial issues for Virginia’s healthcare system and economy, with concerns voiced regarding the impact on access, quality, and cost of healthcare services. The layoffs and closures might exacerbate the state’s current healthcare inequities and shortages, particularly in rural and underprivileged communities.

Also read: Illinois’s Minimum Wage Increase Causes Massive Layoffs for Healthcare Workers

The Virginia Department of Health reports that there are 126 primary care and 100 mental health professional shortage regions in the state. The loss of healthcare workers and infrastructure may also jeopardize the state’s capacity to respond to public health catastrophes like the COVID-19 epidemic, which has already claimed over 15,000 lives in Virginia.

The minimum wage increase may also have a detrimental impact on the state’s economy, as the healthcare industry accounts for 12% of the state’s GDP and employs more than 600,000 people. The loss of employment and income may diminish consumer spending and tax revenues in the state while increasing demand for social services.

Furthermore, the minimum wage increase might have a knock-on impact on other sectors of the economy, such as retail, hospitality, and education, which all employ low-paid workers and suffer comparable cost constraints.


Virginia’s minimum wage hike to $15 per hour by 2026 has resulted in major layoffs in the healthcare industry, affecting more than 400,000 people. Rising labor expenses, along with low payment rates, have caused healthcare providers such as Sentara Healthcare to reduce staff and facilities.

Advocates advocate for equitable compensation and proper use of government relief funding. The effects include potential reductions in healthcare access, quality, and economic ramifications, raising questions about the state’s ability to respond to health emergencies and maintain general economic stability.

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