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Reform Healthcare Here in Virginia

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The Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy recently released a Handbook on Healthcare Reform, a collection of 17 essays by practitioners and public policy specialists offering reforms for healthcare in Virginia (here).

The essays focus on several issues, including three issues likely to come before the General Assembly in January: Medicaid expansion, reform of Certificate of Public Need laws and the urging people to find the best price for health care through “Right to Shop” laws.

Governor-elect Northam made Medicaid expansion a priority during his campaign. But expansion should not come without the application for federal waivers that could provide better outcomes for patients and encourage healthier behaviors by Medicaid beneficiaries – actions successfully taken by other states and could be improved upon here in Virginia.

In addition, there is a clear case for eliminating Virginia’s outmoded Certificate of Public Need law, which serves only to eliminate a competitive healthcare environment and drive up costs for patients and insurance companies alike. Competition can force down prices and provide more quality as has been seen over and over again in our economy.

The greater of use, and less restrictions, of tele-medicine makes good sense in today’s world. In our 21st century world we are offered multiple video, monitoring and communications platforms in nearly every industry and patients should not have to be limited in their care by outmoded laws passed when fax machines were the epitome of ‘high technology.

This new Handbook and Healthcare Reform (here) also encourages legislative and regulatory solutions giving Virginians “Right to Shop” tools to seek better healthcare pricing. New Hampshire gave state employees tools and incentives to find better prices. With three years of education and outreach under its belt, this New Hampshire program has produced over $12 million in savings with over $1 million paid out to patients as rewards for saving money in their healthcare services.

Dr. Hal Scherz, a well-respected Pediatric Urologist from Atlanta who founded “Docs 4 Patient Care” worked with the Jefferson Institute in putting this Handbook together. He said, “Patients should be in charge of the healthcare decisions affecting them and their families. They are better suited to make these decisions than government or insurance companies. The role of government in healthcare, whether federal or state, should be to ensure that opportunities exist for patients to obtain the best care for the best value; not to distort the healthcare system by picking winners and losers as it has chosen to do for decades by favoring special interests over patients.”

Those of us who believe the answer to reforming our health care system does not lie in more government involvement and regulations, but in less government, have an obligation to make our case with creative policy solutions that will provide better care at less cost for Virginians.

When we released this important addition to the healthcare debate, Dr. Scherz, pointed out the underlying the problem with reform our healthcare system when he stated, “As a physician who has been in surgical practice for 30 years and as a self-taught healthcare public policy expert for the past decade, it is painfully obvious that the problems in healthcare in America are not intrinsic to the healthcare being delivered, but instead are the result of government regulation and bureaucracy being imposed on it, and by favored treatment to special interests who profit handsomely and have a vested interest in preserving the status quo.”

The losers in an overly regulated healthcare system such as ours is the patient who pays more than he or she should and who could benefit from a more competitive system.

This newly released Handbook on Healthcare Reform provides just some of the ideas that can be implemented at the state level to create a better healthcare system than we have today. It is a blueprint for reform for those truly interested in reforming our healthcare system.

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