Healthcare tour

Sen. Bill Stanley will conduct a rural healthcare tour through the 20th District on Monday.

State Senator Bill Stanley (R-Moneta) will conduct a rural healthcare tour of the 20th Senate District Monday, Aug. 4, to discuss options and strategies for healthcare that better serve the people of the district.

Stanley plans to visit Old Town Medical Center in Galax, Integrative Center for Science and Medicine in Martinsville, Franklin Memorial Hospital in Rocky Mount, Danville Regional Medical Center, and Piedmont Access to Health Services in Danville

“In a little more than a month from now, the General Assembly will take up the issue of Medicaid expansion in Virginia,” Stanley said. “Currently, the existing Medicaid program in Virginia is a whopping 21 percent of the state budget, or over $18 billion every two years.”

According to Stanley, the program is growing at an average of 8 percent per year, or more than $1 billion every three years for Virginia’s taxpayers without the proposed expansion.

“To meet that existing requirement and its increasing financial obligation to the current Medicaid system, Virginia must either take the money from education and public safety, or increase taxes,” the senator said.

When the future costs of Medicaid expansion are added to this equation, such expansion may cost Virginia an additional $1 billion each year.

“It is an expense that we cannot afford,” Stanley said. “Clearly, we need alternatives to Medicaid expansion. The costs of healthcare are rising astronomically, and with it, the cost of monthly premiums for health insurance for Virginia families.”

Medicaid expansion seeks to cover Virginians within the “coverage gap,” or those who are not covered by health plans because their income is between 100 to 138 percent of the poverty level.

“However, the coverage gap must also be considered in context with what is truly the ‘hospital gap,’” Stanley said. “The hospital gap has caused a financial problem for our health care providers in Virginia.”

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will eliminate over half a trillion dollars in payments to hospitals over the next four years from Medicare in order to support funding for Obamacare, thereby reducing the overall income to hospitals.

“Perhaps most alarming is the fact that this money is being removed from the medical care of our senior citizens, who paid into the system to cover their medical care later in life,” the senator said.

“This reduction in payments creates a deficit in our local hospitals; this is the reason the healthcare industry favors expansion, in order to close their newly created annual budget deficit created by Obamacare, at the expense of our senior citizens,” Stanley said.

Stanley said Medicaid expansion is not the answer.

“The answer lies in comprehensive healthcare innovation and reform in the efficiency of the delivery systems to the patient, as well as the development of preventative care initiatives for rural areas such as ours,” he said,

“In the 20th Senate District, the healthcare industry is the largest employer of our citizens. We must find solutions that assist the industry in its delivery of quality and affordable healthcare to all of us, as well as develop methods that will preserve these local jobs in the healthcare industry.

“Finding lasting solutions to the healthcare needs of the people in our area will require innovation and a new way of thinking,” the senator said. “This tour of our rural healthcare delivery systems has one purpose: to discover ways that Virginia, in partnership with the healthcare industry, can reduce costs of healthcare and improve the delivery of care to those in need, regardless of their income level.”

“Finally, we must always understand that 'health coverage' is distinct from 'access to quality healthcare.' All Virginians, no matter their zip code, should have access to quality healthcare. I am confident that once our tour is complete, and after community discussions, that we will be able to develop comprehensive innovation and reform package for the General Assembly to consider.”

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