Governor's committee finds Virginia health care 'mediocre'
A committee advising Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) on issues surrounding health reform concludes that health-care delivery in Virginia is currently only "mediocre" and lags behind other states with much lower income levels.
The committee, chaired by Secretary of Health and Human Resources William A. Hazel Jr., says in a final report submitted to McDonnell on Tuesday that the state has plenty of good hospitals and doctors. But it notes that only 37 percent of small businesses offer employees health insurance -- down from 48 percent a decade ago. The commonwealth ranks 41 among the states in breast cancer death rates and 35th in infant mortality.
"It is hard to be proud of a system in which nearly one million Virginians -- and 150,000 children -- lack health insurance and timely access to quality care that only it can ensure," concludes the report of the committee, which was composed of 24 political, medical and business leaders.
The council urged Virginia to take steps to ensure that within the next decade, the state is ranked in the top 10 nationally in the health of its population and quality of its health-care system and the bottom 10 in premium and per capita health costs.
The council endorsed Virginia creating its own Health Benefits Exchange to provide access to insurance for residents who don't get it through their employers and do not qualify for Medicaid, as envisioned in the federal health-care law.
It laid a series of questions and guidelines to help regulators create the exchange and agreed that employers should be surveyed about how they'd like the exchange to work.
The council said Virginia should make better use of technology in health care, including electronic record-keeping in Medicaid. The state needs to better coordinate care among different medical professions and address a shortage of nurses and doctors hampering care.
McDonnell convened the group to offer thoughts on improving health care and making it cheaper in Virginia. The group, which will continue to meet, was also designed to find ways to implement the new federal law.
McDonnell has said he opposes the law but will work diligently to implement it unless it is repealed by Congress or overturned by courts. He is supporting a lawsuit by Virginia Attorney Gen. Ken Cuccinelli (R) that challenges the constitutionality of a provision of the law that requires individuals to get insurance by 2014 or pay a fine.
"These leaders have come together and worked diligently to find better ways to deliver high-quality health care at an affordable cost to the citizens of Virginia," McDonnell said in a statement. "I look forward to reviewing the recommendations they have provided and finding solutions that benefit our citizens and our Commonwealth."
Rosalind S. Helderman
| December 21, 2010; 4:47 PM ET
Categories: Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman
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