Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam will establish workgroup to reduce healthcare costs

Local Coronavirus Coverage

"The pandemic highlights just how important it is for every Virginian to have access to care."

RICHMOND, Va. (WJHL) – As part of his press briefing on Wednesday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said his administration is looking for ways to reduce healthcare costs in the state.

Northam prefaced the announcement with a survey of his administration’s efforts to expand Medicaid access so far. Since expanding Medicaid, the governor said more than 421,000 Virginians have enrolled in coverage.

Since Virginia entered a state of emergency in March, Northam said 30,000 adults and 23,000 children enrolled to receive Medicare coverage.

Previous story: ‘Looking toward the fall:’ Va. Gov. Northam announces new task force to address reopening schools

“The pandemic highlights just how important it is for every Virginian to have access to care,” Northam said.

The newly-announced workgroup, he continued, would expand on work established by the Market Stability Group. Northam said the findings of that group lead to decisions to create state-based health insurance.

Additionally, Northam rehashed some of the healthcare-related bills he vetoed during the last session. Senate Bills 235 and 861, along with House Bill 735, sought to address health insurance cost concerns for “targeted segments of the population,” Northam said, but would increase insurance costs for sick Virginians in the process, he said.

He also referenced the General Assembly’s move to ban “balanced billing,” or as Northam described it, “when you see a provider who may not be in your insurance network, and you get a bill that is a lot higher than you expected.”

He added that the state’s Department of Medical Assistance Services received approval for an emergency waiver that will “support streamline access care to Virginia.”

In other news, Northam reported that the state received about 55,000 absentee ballots for local elections, compared with the 1,700 absentee ballots cast in 2016 elections.

Northam urged Virginians to continue voting by absentee ballot for primary elections this summer – the deadline to request an absentee ballot for primaries is June 16 at 5 p.m.

Secretary of Trade and Commerce Angela Navarro also cleared up some questions about the operations of yard sales and flea markets.

While yard sales and flea markets aren’t specifically addressed in the state’s guidelines for phase I operations, Nevarro said such businesses or event should follow the general guidelines for business operations, derived from guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those guidelines, according to the state website, include establishing policies to encourage social distancing and regular sanitation procedures.

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