Despite lawsuit, Virginia announces health care reform plans

Despite being one of the states currently contesting federal health care reform, Virginia has announced a new statewide health care reform initiative designed to prepare the state for implementation of the law.  The state will start by creating a plan for Medicaid expansion, implementing in-state health insurance reforms and streamlining health care delivery.

The Initiative will take the form of a working group to be managed under the state’s Health and Human Services Secretariat. The Secretariat will also be appointing all members of the Initiative. The working group will be tasked with studying the impact of and establishing best practices for implementing federal health reform requirements and reporting back to the Governor.

According to estimates from Virginia’s Heath and Human Resources Secretariat, the planned Medicaid expansion will increase the number of enrollees in Virginia from 270,000 to 425,000 at a cost of $1.5 billion dollars.  The Health Care Reform Initiative will be responsible for auditing nationwide Medicaid practices, and making recommendations about the best way to implement the reform requirements in the state.  The Initiative will also be examining consumer driven reforms to the program.

Virginia is also creating a Health Insurance Exchange which will start activities in 2014.  The Initiative will be creating a plan for coordinating federally mandated insurance reforms as well as exploring alternatives to the required reforms and looking for ways to improve competition between health insurers.  This plan will also include measures for improving health care delivery through an audit of the state’s current health care infrastructure and using the findings to make recommendations on how to address gaps in the system, reform implementation and create of market incentives to lower costs and improve efficiency.

The first round of findings will be presented by the Initiative working group on September 30, 2010.  These findings are expected to focus on matters that will impact development of the Executive Budget.  The working group will submit recommendations on a yearly basis thereafter with a final report presented on January 10, 2014 – the year that many of the federal reforms will move into full implementation.

Speaking about the Health Care Reform Initiative, Secretary Hazel remarked, “Expanding access to reasonably priced high quality and safe health care is a bipartisan goal. The Commonwealth must make it easier for Virginians to be healthier and to purchase and retain health insurance. Virginia is one of many states challenging the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act.  However this lawsuit could take two to three years to be settled.  As we wait for court decisions, the Commonwealth must comply with the acts and begin preparing for implementation of federal health care reform.”