Report to governor: Virginia health-industry performance ‘mediocre,’ insurance market ‘unsustainable’

The performance of Virginia’s health industry is “actually quite mediocre.” So reports an advisory council convened by Gov. Bob McDonnell to review the health-care sector and its associated costs and benefits.

A report of the Virginia Health Reform Initiative Advisory Council issued on Monday estimates that 1 million Virginians – including 150,000 children – lack health insurance and timely access to regular medical care that access to health insurance makes possible. A key factor there: While 37 percent of employers offer health insurance to their workers, down from 48 percent 10 years ago, employers are still the single largest contributor to paying for the delivery of health-care services in the Commonwealth.

“Health care costs so much more here than in other countries that U.S. employers are having a more difficult time competing with global firms than they used to,” the report offers, along with this paradox: “An unhealthy workforce is less productive and more costly to employers than a healthy workforce, whether they provide health insurance or not.”

Other highlights from the report (link to report):

  • Virginia’s overall quality of care is rated as “average,” with strengths in cardiac care, hospital care generally, and home health. Weaknesses in Virginia’s quality rankings include nursing home care, diabetes care, and maternal and child health. Virginia ranks 41st in the nation in breast cancer death rates, and 35th in infant mortality. The report notes that Virginia ranks sixth nationwide in median family income.
  • While overall and hospital spending per capita are lower in Virginia than the national average, premiums are higher, and both health-care cost and premium growth in Virginia have exceeded national averages for more than a decade. Health-care cost and premium growth continue to outstrip personal income growth by two to three percentage points a year, so that both care and coverage require greater and greater sacrifice from families and employers, especially small employers.
  • Virginia has some professional shortages in the health-care talent pool now that are expected to worsen over time, even without coverage expansion. Geographic maldistribution may be the larger problem than overall supply, according to the report.
  • The current state of the insurance market in Virginia is rated as “unsustainable.” Many Virginians cannot afford private health insurance and are not eligible for Medicaid, and despite the best efforts of those in Virginia’s safety net, some go without needed services as a result.

Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at

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