April 1, 2013
The Virginia General Assembly will meet on Wednesday (April 3) to consider changes Governor Bob McDonnell is proposing for health care reform. The governor has made changes to two health care reform bills. You can contact your legislators at http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/ and just click on the “Who’s My Legislator” button at the top.
On Medicaid expansion, Governor McDonnell is proposing some language to set clear benchmarks for reform. While most of the clarifying language seems ok, he also added “at a minimum” in several places suggesting that the commission appointed to certify that Medicaid reform has happened so that Medicaid expansion can move forward could ask for even more.
On the Health Benefits Exchange the governor has proposed language banning plans in the exchange for covering abortion. The General Assembly can accept the changes or force the governor to decide if he will veto the legislation.
Joann Grossi, the regional Director of the US Department of Health and Human Services will be speaking in Virginia Beach on Tuesday, April 23 at 7:00 pm. Ms. Grossi will be in charge of setting up the Health Benefits Exchange in Virginia. So whatever information she has will be valuable. She will be speaking at New Hope Baptist Church, 395 Old Great Neck Road.
There is a federal income tax credit for small businesses that provide health insurance for their employees. The credit will carry over into the future if it is not all used in one year. IRS form 8941 contains useful information.
A Health Benefit Exchange (HBE) is a co-op or buyers club that will allow small businesses from all over the state to join one big pool to purchase health insurance. The size of the pool should result in better rates for small businesses. The HBE should have an easy to use website where small businesses can compare and buy insurance plans. The HBE will be voluntary and will start operating in January, 2014.
Among the reports issued by the Virginia task force looking at health care reform (the Virginia Health Reform Initiative) was a study on the potential size of the exchange in Virginia. The report found that there would be at least 60,000 small businesses with 120,000 covered employees in the small business exchange.
While setting up an effective health insurance exchange will help small businesses save money, long term savings will also come through having a healthier community. The federal health care reform takes two steps on this. First, new insurance plans are required to provide a large list of preventive care with no co-pay or deductible. See http://www.healthcare.gov/law/provisions/preventive/index.html for more information. In addition, the law allows wellness incentives that encourage people to live a healthier lifestyle by charging lower premiums for healthy choices.
The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association released a study that shows that expanding Medicaid will cost the state LESS money than not expanding it. Because the federal government will pick up most of the cost, and because the state spends a good deal now on indigent care, expanding Medicaid will cost very little, while not expanding it may drive up costs a good deal. Plus, the study showed that health insurance costs for those with coverage should go down by slightly less than 1 percent as fewer folks are using uncompensated care. Finally, expansion should add about 30,000 jobs.
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