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Commentary: Supporting Health of all Virginians
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Commentary: Supporting Health of all Virginians

After wrestling with Medicaid expansion for years, the Virginia House of Delegates voted in favor of providing coverage for hundreds of thousands of our neighbors across Virginia. We want to commend the delegates from both parties for their perseverance in tackling a difficult topic and thank them for voting to improve health care for all Virginians.

Helping our neighbors makes sense for several reasons. Bringing back Virginia taxpayer dollars to the state would strengthen the economy. That action stands to support thousands of new jobs. Also healthy people equal a healthy economy, a more productive workforce and ultimately a lower cost to society overall.

Research continues to prove that individuals who have insurance see their primary care doctor more routinely, take care of their chronic conditions more effectively, and stay employed (and employable) longer.

What would Medicaid expansion mean if the Senate, House and Governor found a compromise solution during the special General Assembly session to finalize the state budget?

With additional funds from the federal government, the Commonwealth can expand coverage to the up to 400,000 additional low-income Virginians who currently do not qualify for Medicaid.

The cost of uncompensated care is initially absorbed by a health care provider such as a hospital or physician office. But it ultimately gets passed on to people through higher insurance rates, to employers who provide insurance for their employees, and to workers who see their premiums rise.

Funding health care is not just the work of government programs, however. We, as hospitals and health care systems, need to partner with patients to take responsibility for lowering costs. With that in mind, we’ve been approaching care in new ways.

Additional Medicaid dollars are really just the next piece in a much larger puzzle. Hospitals like ours will continue to provide care to those who need it in an emergency, but increasingly we’ve shifted to a model of care that offers support to people who might be at risk for needing acute care. If we’re able to help them before they become acutely ill, they have a much better chance at a fulfilling life, and the cost to our health system and the community is much lower. In other words, we’re focusing on the complex work of keeping chronically ill patients from unnecessary hospitalizations.

As major employers in the Commonwealth, we share a commitment to ensuring the economic vitality of our great state. We know that a healthy economy is only possible within a healthy community where individuals have the tools and resources to keep themselves well and to seek care close to home when they need it.

Thank you to the House of Delegates for reaching out of your comfort zone in this year’s budget to include federal Medicaid dollars. As health care systems, we exist to ensure our communities are healthy, and we appreciate you joining us in that mission. We’re optimistic that the climate of compromise will find its way to the Senate during this special session, for the sake of all Virginians.

Dr. J. Stephen Jones is chief executive officer of Inova. Nancy Howell Agee is president and chief executive officer of Carilion Clinic. Howard Kern is president and chief executive officer of Sentara Healthcare.