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Joint Commission on Health Care Approves Work Plan for 2021

Members of the Joint Commission on Health Care formally approved three major studies for 2021 during the Commission’s May 18 meeting and previewed a new Health Care Dashboard that may point to other areas for the Commission’s work in the future.  Commission members had developed the 2021 studies through a process of prioritization last fall; additional research topics that were referred to the Commission via legislation in 2021 will be incorporated into current studies or placed in the queue for 2022.  A smaller workgroup of Commission members has been developed for each of the research areas and will assist in providing direction to staff as the studies progress this summer and fall.

The 2021 study areas are as follows:

Health insurance affordability in the individual market:  This study will determine what level of insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses are affordable to consumers who purchase coverage in the individual insurance market, review actions taken by other states, and examine the impact of potential policy changes on insurance costs, the number of uninsured Virginians, and stakeholders.  The workgroup, which met in the afternoon of May 18, received a briefing from the Virginia Poverty Law Center on the Center’s work to assist Virginians with enrolling in coverage and the additional subsidies available to consumers in the American Rescue Plan Act.  Work group members also heard presentations from the Virginia Hospital and Health Care Association, the Medical Society of Virginia, and the Virginia Association of Health Plans representing these organizations’ perspectives on the drivers of health care and insurance costs.

Impact of long-term care workforce needs on nursing facility care:  This study will analyze workforce shortages and their potential effects on quality of care, and examine how staffing and quality could be improved.  This workgroup received an overview of how nursing facilities are licensed and regulated by the Virginia Department of Health, how they are funded through Medicaid, and the development of a new model for value-based purchasing of care, which was directed through budget language.  Programs in other states tie compensation to meeting certain benchmarks or quality standards.  Members also received a presentation on the pressures facing nursing facilities and how recruitment and retention of front-line staff could be improved.

Strategies to support aging Virginians in their communities:  This study will identify services necessary to support aging in place and determine where gaps in these supports exist; it will also review the coordination of state and local programs.  Representatives of local Area Agencies on Aging briefed workgroup members on the effectiveness of AAA services in supporting older Virginians in their communities, delaying or avoiding institutional care, and reducing hospital readmissions.  LeadingAge Virginia’s representatives provided an overview of the continuum of services for aging Virginians, ranging from affordable housing and independent living to nursing home care, and pointed out the particular challenges in serving individuals whose incomes disqualify them from subsidized housing but cannot afford assisted living facilities.  Many of these individuals are being cared for by family or other informal caregivers.  Members received presentations from Virginia Navigator about the assistance available to caregivers in seeking out services in each locality and from Dr. Richard Lindsay of the Lindsay Institute for Innovations in Caregiving about the emotional, physical, and financial pressures on informal caregivers.

Joint Commission members plan to receive briefings on several additional topics throughout the year, including disparities in maternal and child health; challenges in the behavioral health workforce; and reducing unnecessary use of hospital emergency departments.  Staff will report on study findings and recommendations this fall, and members will vote on policy options in December.  The Health Care Dashboard will be available on the Joint Commission’s website soon, and will document progress in metrics associated with health care accessibility (such as health insurance coverage, provider availability, and access to prenatal care); affordability (such as the percentage of adults avoiding care due to cost); and quality (such as percentage of babies born with low birth weight and preventable hospital admissions).

VACo Contact:  Katie Boyle

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