Those of us in Northern Virginia are fortunate to live in one of the most prosperous regions in the country. Despite this, there is a clear need to ensure quality healthcare is available to many in our region who struggle to afford it. The truth is the system as it exists now doesn’t work for our neediest residents or our region’s hospitals.
In most cases, Virginia’s nearly one million uninsured residents currently rely on hospital emergency rooms for basic medical care. While hospital emergency rooms are the right place to receive lifesaving care when a health issue is emergent, it is inefficient and expensive when used to provide care one should receive in a doctor's office. The healthcare community can serve these patients better, but we cannot do so without closing Virginia’s coverage gap and the continuation of successful reforms.
Over the years I’ve seen Virginia solve big issues differently than just about anywhere else - the “Virginia Way” typically produces thoughtful solutions to complicated problems. By supporting a coordinated, commercial-like private option that takes advantage of already successful aspects of private insurance coverage, we can close the coverage gap to support Virginia’s hospitals as they face drastic funding cuts. This could save the Commonwealth $1 billion over the next decade.
This is a common-sense, fiscally responsible approach supported by Virginia’s healthcare providers and business community alike. The result? Northern Virginia will see up to a 47 percent drop in the rate of uninsured residents.
Approximately 400,000 uninsured Virginians earning up to 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level - $15,281 per year for a single person or $31,321 per year for a family of four - will be eligible for healthcare coverage. Additionally, billions of taxpayer dollars will be returned to Virginia to support Virginians.
Without a serious effort to close the coverage gap, Virginians will send nearly $30 billion in taxes, fees and healthcare provider cuts on a one-way trip across the Potomac River to Washington, D.C. Adding insult to injury, more than a third of those taxes, fees and cuts will come from businesses, taxpayers and hospitals in Northern Virginia. A Virginia solution to the coverage gap will bring those funds back to the Commonwealth where they belong.
Even if Virginia wisely moves forward with a solution to close the coverage gap, more than 150,000 uninsured Northern Virginians will remain ineligible for coverage. Inova’s commitment to the underserved in our community will remain unchanged.
Inova invested more than $274 million in community benefits and services in 2012 alone - including $120 million in charity care. Our efforts, such as finding healthcare coverage for nearly 5,000 uninsured children through our Partnership for Healthier Kids, and providing comprehensive prenatal, obstetrical and gynecologic care to women in Northern Virginia’s underserved communities through our InovaCares for Women clinics, will continue.
These efforts and many others are an integral part of who we are as an organization. We believe the goal of a healthier Northern Virginia is critical to the success of the region and the Commonwealth. We are working to do our part.
At Inova, we look to what’s called the “double-bottom line.” How can we best be financially sustainable while at the same time maximize our ability to help and serve others in our community?
Closing Virginia’s coverage gap satisfies both goals for the Commonwealth. It ensures that 400,000 low-income, hard-working Virginians have access to the comprehensive healthcare coverage that leads to better health outcomes and financial security. In addition, program reforms modeled after the private sector will result in a Medicaid program that is more efficient and less costly to taxpayers.
Virginia’s leaders have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to speak with a unified voice in support of two worthwhile goals: an equitable healthcare system that includes Virginia’s neediest residents, and a Medicaid program that is cost-effective, efficient and sustainable for years to come. Let’s not miss this opportunity.
Knox Singleton is the Chief Executive Officer of Inova Health System.