Consumer groups comment on GA’s health exchange gamble

On Wednesday the Senate special subcommittee on health insurance failed to recommend any health exchange bills despite previously acknowledging the irresponsibility of waiting and denying months of work from the governor’s hand-selected health reform panel.

Subcommittee Chair Sen. Jeffrey McWaters moved to wait until after the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on the constitutionality of certain provisions of the new federal health care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court will begin arguments in March 2012 with a ruling expected in June.

Both critics and supporters of the health care law have implored Virginia to move forward with a health exchange bill in order to secure federal dollars and to maintain the flexibility to create an exchange specifically designed for the Commonwealth.

The federal government will set up exchanges for states that cannot prove by January 2013 that they are able to run their own. The looming 2013 deadline provides that the Virginia General Assembly will either need to schedule a special session later this year or blow through a deadline that could cost the state millions in federal funding.

“I am disappointed that the Virginia General Assembly is putting off creating an exchange.  It is a classic example of ‘Why do now, what you can put off for tomorrow?’ Our legislators are playing a game of chicken, which could result in the loss of federal funding. The exchange could impact half a million Virginians and should not be slapped-together at the last minute,” said Ray Scher of the Virginia Organizing Health Reform Committee.

Small business owners in particular would benefit from the creation of a consumer friendly health exchange. The Virginia Main Street Alliance, an initiative of Virginia Organizing, has been actively lobbying for an independent, quasi-governmental exchange that will help control costs for small business owners.

“I am dismayed that the governor and the legislature are not moving forward on health care reform in Virginia.  If small business is the engine that keeps the economy going, the legislature should be focused on helping us keep the engine primed.  We will keep going forward in this tough economic environment with or without their help,” said Susan Scheffler, Owner of Nickell’s & Scheffler of Alexandria and leader of the Virginia Main Street Alliance.

“While small business owners like myself continue to struggle to keep up with rising health insurance premiums, the Virginia General Assembly has decided to delay creating an exchange that will help,” said Kevin Wilson, Owner of Sticky To Go Go of Richmond and member of the Virginia Main Street Alliance. “I can’t tell my health insurance company to hold my premium invoices until after the Supreme Court rules on the health care law. Not all of us have the luxury of delay.”


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