Virginia hospitals urge General Assembly to be cautious about health-care legislation
With the 2017 Virginia General Assembly session underway, hospital and business leaders are urging legislators to take a “do no harm” approach to health-care legislation.
“We should be extremely cautious on a state policy level about doing anything that could negatively impact these vital services, their providers and our economy,” Bryan K. Stephens, president of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, said during a Richmond news conference held by the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association. VHHA represents 107 hospitals and 30 health systems in the commonwealth.
VHHA officials suggested that the legislature wait and see how Congress acts on President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), known commonly as Obamacare. The association cited the results of a Mason-Dixon poll of 625 Virginia voters showing a majority favored holding off on significant health-care changes until Congress has acted.
VHHA is particularly concerned about major changes to Virginia’s certificate of public need (COPN) law. The law requires medical providers to secure a certificate from the state showing there’s a “public need” before offering certain services. Hospital leaders say this process prevents competitors from “cherry picking” profitable services, such as surgery and imaging.
Bills already have been filed in the state House and Senate related to COPN. That includes Senate Bill 1141, introduced by state Sen. Glen H. Sturtevant Jr. (R-Midlothian), which would repeal the COPN requirement for projects that primarily provide rehabilitation services for patients with substance abuse problem.
That bill has been referred to the Senate Education and Health committee.
Another bill introduced by Del. John M. O'Bannon III (R-Henrico) seeks to phase out COPN requirements for many categories of medical care facilities and projects. House Bill 2337 has been assigned to a House Health, Welfare and Institutions subcommittee.
The “do no harm” warning also extends to U.S. Congress, too, VHHA says. Virginia hospitals are facing $1 billion in annual cuts under the ACA, which are likely to continue even if the law is repealed, the association says. If the ACA is repealed and not fully replaced, one estimate suggests Virginia could lose $2.6 billion in health-care spending. Of that amount, hospitals could lose nearly $986 million.
“Those are significant sums, which can have far-reaching implications for patients’ access to health care, and for Virginia’s economy,” Mary N. Mannix, president and CEO of Augusta Health in Fishersville who is chair of VHHA’s board of directors, said in a statement.
While VHHA opposes major changes, it supports, among other bills, legislation enhancing preadmission screening procedures and strengthening cybersecurity standards to safeguard medical data.
The VHHA says Virginia hospitals employ 115,000 people and generate $36 billion in economic activity.