Governor-appointed panel in Virginia calls for reform 'regardless' of law

Calling Virginia's health system performance "mediocre," a panel appointed by Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell recommended that the state work toward implementing the federal health law's provisions--and toward improving performance as a whole--despite a ruling by a Richmond-based federal judge on Monday deeming part of that same law unconstitutional.

Despite a fundamental opposition to the law, McDonnell--as well as all other governors both for and against reform--still must be prepared for whatever outcome is decided, reports Kaiser Health News, hence, the panel. The panel recommended creating an exchange run by the state where both individuals and citizens could obtain health coverage; increasing the number of doctors in the state thus, addressing the physician shortage; and a more team-based approach to healthcare that includes turning more decision-making authority over to nurses. 

Still, the panel pointed out that most of its suggestions could be implemented regardless of the law's outcome. 

"Health reform is a process, and successful health reform is a participation sport," the panel wrote. "The vast majority of these suggested actions are independent of the new federal law. This accentuates the fundamental point that health system reform can be in the Commonwealth's interest regardless of federal actions or inactions." 

Bill Hazel, the state's Health and Human Services secretary, reiterated that point when announcing the panel's findings on Tuesday. "[I]t's easy to assume we are not interested in health reform, but we very much are," he said, according to KHN

The panel cited the lack of individuals and small business with insurance access, despite the state's ranking No. 6 in the nation in terms of median family income, as just one reason for change. 

"Since so many recommendations hold promise to improve quality, lower cost, or make insurance and care more affordable and accessible, opportunities for 'early adoption' should be prudently explored and acted upon," they wrote." 

In related news, in response to the aforementioned judge's ruling Monday, the Justice Department said it will appeal the decision, reports the Wall Street Journal

For more information:
- read the Kaiser Health News piece
- here's the panel's report
- check out the Wall Street Journal article