Virginia’s Health Council Finds Reform Will Cut Uninsured In Half, Reduce Uncompensated Care Costs

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) is a strong opponent of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, claiming that the “unconstitutional” law is full of “unfunded mandates” that could “overwhelm our health care system.” But a new report from a 24-member advisory council he appointed in 2010 finds that health reform would cut the number of uninsured Virginians in half and significantly reduce state expenditures on uncompensated care.

The council, which is tasked with developing recommendations for implementing the ACA in Virginia and advising the General Assembly on how to establish an exchange, is urging the state to create a quasi-government Health Benefit Exchange with a governing board, “so that Virginia policy makers will have maximum freedom to shape health insurance markets and health reform in Virginia.” As a result:

[R]oughly half of the uninsured in Virginia will gain coverage, a little more than 520,000 people, and that 420,000 of them will gain Medicaid coverage. A little over 100,000 Virginians would gain private coverage, and more than 60 percent of them will be in group as opposed to non-group markets…[A]lmost 400,000 of those who gain coverage are in households with incomes less than two times the federal poverty level, though 70,000 of the formerly uninsured earn more than three times poverty today.


According to modeling conducted for the council by the Urban Institute, uncompensated “care for the uninsured (and therefore implicit expense now borne by providers and public plus private payers) is expected to fall by over $800 million, the uninsured and demand for safety net care will not disappear from Virginia, though the scale of it should decline by roughly half.” The group also estimated that approximately 150,000 Virginians will receive federal subsidies to help them afford health insurance coverage.

McDonnell has forwarded the council’s report to the General Assembly, which must begin “planning the exchanges by 2013 so they can be operational in 2014.”