5 Things Virginia: Q&A w/Sen. Barbara Favola, Health policy update, Convening Panel
This is our second edition of our new newsletter focused on five things we are watching at the intersection of health care and health policy in Virginia. Thanks for allowing us to land in your inbox and giving us a look.
If we aren’t for you, then you can always unsubscribe at the bottom of this email, or just send me a note and I’ll do it for you. But, my hope is that you’ll find a few nuggets in this newsletter that are unique and of value. So, thanks for giving us a look.
With help from Emily Boerger
1. Q&A: Sen. Barbara Favola
Sen. Barbara Favola represents Virginia’s 31st Legislative District and serves as Chair of the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee. In this Q&A, Favola discusses her proudest moment from last session (the passage of her balanced billing legislation), the impact of COVID, and her plans for the 2021 legislative session.
Favola says lawmakers are limited in the number of bills they can bring forward during the virtual session, but she plans to submit a budget amendment directing the Joint Commission on Health Care to study basic health plans for those making 138-200% of the federal poverty level. She is also working alongside Del. Sickles on a bill to facilitate entry into the state exchange.
2. Health policy discussions in the legislature
During a Tuesday meeting, the House Health Welfare Institutions Committee voted to report and refer to Appropriations a bill that would create a rare disease advisory council. The bill’s sponsor, Del. Kathleen Murphy, shared with the committee that her daughter has cystic fibrosis and that the costs associated with rare diseases can be financially challenging. The committee also passed HB 1963, related to local public health department funding.
In the Senate, the Health Subcommittee discussed bills on Tuesday which would allow parents or guardians to reject immunizations for a child for religious reasons, even during an emergency or disease epidemic. They also discussed SB 1302 designating the 9-8-8 Crisis Hotline Center, bills related to telehealth, and a bill requiring certain employers to report outbreaks of COVID-19.
3. Update on proposed budget amendments
COVID-related spending is behind a large portion of the proposed amendments to Virginia’s 2020-22 biennial budget. Details on the amendments, released last week through HB 1800/SB 1100, include $177.1 million general funds in discretionary spending in Health and Human Resources. Of that, 67% is related to the commonwealth’s pandemic response, with $89.3 going toward vaccination efforts and $19.6 million earmarked for communications with the public regarding the pandemic.
The House of Delegates budget amendment proposals have also been submitted. One highlight is Del. M. Keith Hodges’ proposal to use $5 million from the general fund to create a Healthcare Workforce Innovation and Investment Fund to support regionally led and state coordinated innovations in workforce recruitment, education, and training. Amendments submitted by members of the Senate were published today.
4. Thank you to our Convening Panel!
We host the 2021 Virginia State of Reform Health Policy Conference this year on April 29th. A few weeks ago, however, we kicked off our Convening Panel process, which gathered input from some of Virginia’s most thoughtful health care and health policy leaders. Their input helps us shape the Topical Agenda and identify some of the speakers we’ll want to have ready for you in April.
So, if you have any topics, speakers, or content ideas, we would love to hear them. And, if you already know you want to be with us on the 29th, take advantage of our Early Bird Registration rate which is open through February 12th.
5. Del. Adams discusses prejudice in health care
In a personal testimony, Del. Dawn Adams urged the House of Delegates’ Health, Welfare and Institutions committee to vote in favor of HB 1805, which would require the Department of Aging and Rehabilitation Services to prioritize older persons with significant social needs. Some of these needs not caused by economic factors include sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression. The committee voted 13-9 in favor of the bill.
Adams told the committee that prejudice still exists in health care and she wants to ensure that all groups are protected. “As a 56-year-old lesbian, I am still shrouded in shame,” she said. “When I would go to the doctor 10 years ago, I would leave in tears. Young people today have no idea the shame we grew up with and how much it hurts.” Her full remarks are available here.