During a State Capitol news conference today, community hospital leaders highlighted policy priorities for improving the healthcare system during the 2018 General Assembly session and shared eye opening new poll numbers showing that the vast majority of Virginians support helping the uninsured get healthcare coverage.
Here in Virginia, and across the nation, people regularly list healthcare as their top concern. Members of the hospital community share that outlook and are committed to working with elected leaders this year to find responsible ways to enhance our healthcare system. One important and achievable way to do that is to increase healthcare access for uninsured Virginians.
Statewide polling conducted in December shows that four out of five Virginia voters (83 percent) favor a plan to draw down federal dollars so that hundreds of thousands of uninsured Virginians can get healthcare coverage. The poll conducted Dec. 17-20 by Public Opinion Strategies, a leading Republican political and public affairs research firm, also found that support for increased health care access is strong in communities across the Commonwealth, and strong across party lines.
The poll’s key findings are:
- Four out of five Virginia voters (83 percent) support a plan to help enroll the uninsured in healthcare coverage.
- Across each region of the Commonwealth, at least 80 percent of voters support this idea.
- Support for healthcare access is strong across party lines with more than two-thirds of self-identified Republicans and Independents supportive, and more than nine out of 10 Democrats in favor.
“In 2018, our focus is on supporting policies that strengthen our health care system, and opposing proposals that could harm the system and patient access,” said Michael V. Gentry, Senior Corporate Vice President and Chief Operating Officer with Sentara Healthcare in Norfolk, and Chairman of the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association’s (VHHA) Board of Directors. “That includes increased coverage access for our fellow Virginians, and working to continue to improve behavioral health services, and protect the important Certificate of Public Need law.”
“In this nation, people receive medical attention from hospitals whether or not they have insurance or the means to pay for their care,” explained Mary N. Mannix, President and Chief Executive Officer of Augusta Health in Fishersville and the Immediate Past Chair of the VHHA Board of Directors. “Providing charity care places a burden on healthcare providers, taxpayers, and the public. Getting more people insured can lead to a healthier, more productive workforce, which is good for the economy and society. That’s one of the many reasons it makes sense to increase health care access for uninsured Virginians through the Affordable Care Act. And as the polling data shows, Virginians overwhelmingly favor that approach.”
It is estimated that as many as 400,000 uninsured, low-income Virginians would be eligible for coverage if Virginia draws down federal funds, supported by Virginia tax dollars, available for the purpose of increasing coverage access. Of those, 300,000 people would be likely to enroll in healthcare.
“Helping more uninsured Virginians get healthcare coverage is good for public health, and good for the Commonwealth as a whole,” said Mark H. Merrill, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Valley Health System in Winchester and the Vice Chair of the VHHA Board of Directors. “Right now, it is estimated that Virginia is losing $5 million each day by declining to increase healthcare access, and has foregone more than $10.5 billion in funding that could have come to the Commonwealth over the past few years. By accepting available funds, Virginia can help more of its citizens get needed healthcare coverage, and boost the economy through projected job growth and potential budget savings.”
The impacts of the charity care that is built into the health care system places a strain on hospitals and other healthcare providers that ultimately is felt by the public and taxpayers. Since 2012, charity care costs for Virginia hospitals have exceeded $1 billion each year. At the same time, burdensome funding cuts from the ACA are growing. From 2015-2016, the Medicare shortfall experience by Virginia hospitals – the shortfall is the difference between patient reimbursements and actual treatment costs – grew from $668 million to $909 million. That’s a $241 million, or 36 percent, difference in one year.
“Increasing health care coverage for the uninsured may not eliminate charity care in the health care system, but it will help stabilize the health care delivery system that we all depend on to care for our loved ones during times of medical need,” said Dr. Michael P. McDermott, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Mary Washington Healthcare in the Fredericksburg area, and the Secretary-Treasurer of the VHHA Board of Directors.
“As of today, more than 30 states have accepted federal funds to increase healthcare access for the uninsured. And the results in those states have been positive. Several states have realized budget savings and rural hospitals have fared better in those states at a time when many rural hospitals are struggling. Considering those positive returns and the strong support among Virginians for healthcare access for the uninsured, we encourage our elected leaders to come together to find a way to increase access and improve our healthcare system in 2018.”
The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association is an alliance of 110 hospitals and 28 health delivery systems that develops and advocates for sound health care policy in the Commonwealth. Its vision is to achieve excellence in both health care and health. Its vision is through the power of collaboration to be recognized as a driving force behind making Virginia the healthiest state in the nation. Connect with VHHA through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and ISupportVirginiaHospitals.com.