The Legislative Joint Commission on Health Care began discussion on potential topics to study in 2022 and identified three areas of interest during its meeting on Tuesday. The Commission’s executive committee will then meet in two weeks to finalize topics, followed by background research and drafting study resolutions for the Commission to vote on in December. Here are three potential health care studies proposed during the meeting:
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Delegate M. Keith Hodges (R – Urbanna) proposed a study that would focus on Virginia’s COVID response, particularly on vaccine and test distribution. The study would also assess more recent COVID response developments, such as the approval for pediatric vaccines and distribution of monoclonal antibody treatments. Del. Hodges said he faced significant demand for more resources from his constituents.
“I’m getting 30-40 requests a day for [COVID] testing, and we can’t find testing sites. Thirty to 40, just to me, at one location. This is something we really need to look at short-term and long-term as well.”
State data shows that 10.4 million vaccine doses have been administered as of Wednesday. Approximately 71% of adult Virginians are fully vaccinated. However, there are regional disparities among who is vaccinated. State data also shows that in parts of southern Virginia, particularly more rural areas such as Lunenburg, Patrick, and Carroll counties, only 35-45% of the population is fully vaccinated. By comparison, more urban areas such as Henrico, Arlington, and Albemarle counties have vaccination rates closer to 60%.
Health Care Workforce Shortage
Former gubernatorial candidate Sen. Jennifer McClellan then proposed a study to address the long-term effects of COVID on the entire state health system, and how COVID has exacerbated workforce shortages and barriers to care across various sectors.
“We have seen our health care safety net was not prepared, and has been stretched to the brink. I think our entire health care workforce is stretched to the brink, and we may see long-term impacts of that.”
Public Health Infrastructure
Senator Barbara Favola (D – Arlington) shifted the Commission’s focus to local health departments across the state. She recalled the previous legislative session, when departments in northern Virginia advocated for funding to hire workers at a rate that “reflected the cost of living in the region, which required a different kind of relationship with the state.”
“Maybe one of our studies needs to be the appropriateness and effectiveness of the state/local public health infrastructure, and how we need to buttress that or change it so it can respond to crises such as the COVID-19 epidemic. And then of course, the Delta [variant] and hopefully not future epidemics, but future crises.”
Sen. Favola also advocated for implementing more community-based models of health care.
The Commission currently has three studies under its jurisdiction this year examining the following issues: Impact of long-term care workforce needs on nursing facility care, Health insurance affordability in the individual market, and Strategies to support aging Virginians in their communities.
Stephen Weiss, the Commission’s senior health policy analyst, presented findings from the health insurance affordability study last month, leading the Commission to consider possible solutions, such as a public option.
The Commission will hear results from the other two studies at its next meeting on Oct. 5. A full recording of Tuesday’s meeting, which included presentations on maternal health and the behavioral health workforce in Virginia, is available here.