Story by Chris Graham
You don’t hear a lot of Republicans talking about health-care reform.
“And I don’t know why that is, because one of the things that I believe in very strongly is that one of state government’s most important responsibilities is making sure that we have a system of health care in Virginia where health care is accessible and affordable for every Virginian,” Republican Party lieutenant-governor nomination candidate Bill Bolling said Wednesday during a campaign stop in Fishersville, where he talked up his ideas for reform of the state health-care system.
Bolling’s health-care plan focuses on tort reform aimed at lowering the cost for physicians to do business, tax credits for employers who provide long-term care insurance for employees and increased attention on responsible health-care budgeting.
“We’re very fortunate in Virginia to have a great system of health care, but we have some challenges,” Bolling said at a news conference held in the foreground of Augusta Medical Center.
The biggest challenge, said Bolling, a Central Virginia state senator, “is making sure that physicians are available in every corner of rural Virginia.”
“There are some parts of rural Virginia that are still having a hard time getting doctors and dentists and other health-care providers. We need to find ways to make sure that we have health care available at the local level in rural parts of Virginia,” Bolling said.
The senator has endorsed a medical-malpractice reform plan authored by Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge, that calls for a $250,000 cap on the recovery of noneconomic damages that Bolling said would take the pressure off doctors who have a hard time finding malpractice insurance – and affording malpractice insurance.
“The result of that is that a lot of doctors in those high-risk specialties are leaving the practice of medicine. We need to reform our tort system to keep that from occurring,” Bolling said.
Bolling has also endorsed legislation authored by Del. Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave, that would provide tax credits equal to 10 percent of the costs of long-term care insurance premiums purchased by employers for employees – up to a $5,000 annual maximum.
“We need to do more to deal with the problem of the uninsured. We need to make sure that we can provide basic health-care coverage for Virginians,” Bolling said.
“We need to encourage small businesses and enable and empower small businesses to be able to afford health insurance for their employees. And we need to encourage families to purchase long-term care insurance,” Bolling said.
“The reason that I like the tax-credit idea is that it’s not a cost, per se, to the state. It’s not an expenditure. What it is is a tax benefit to the taxpayer that specifically encourages them to purchase long-term care insurance,” Bolling said. “So the state is collecting less because we’re providing a tax credit, but we’re not spending money for it. In the long run, I would argue that it saves us money, because when that individual turns 70 and has a health-care problem that requires him to go into a long-term care center, instead of turning to a Commonwealth to provide benefits that are inadequate yet very expensive, they’re going to turn to a private insurance company to provide better benefits at no cost to the taxpayers.
“In the long run, I think the revenues that the state would lose by providing the tax credits is more than offset by the benefit that we would gain by seeing the burden for long-term care shifted from the public sector to the private sector,” Bolling said. “We give the taxpayer a benefit in the process, and at the end of the day, they’re going to have a better program with better benefits.”