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Joint Commission on Health Care Holds First Meeting of 2022; Discusses Work Plan

The Joint Commission on Health Care held its first meeting of the year on April 27 to elect new leadership for the Commission and to discuss planned studies for the remainder of the calendar year.  Commission members selected Senator George Barker as the new chairman, succeeding Delegate Patrick Hope, and Delegate Robert Orrock as the new vice-chairman.

Executive Director Jeff Lunardi briefed members on the study resolutions previously adopted by the Commission at its December 2021 meeting, as well as the issues that were referred to the Commission during the 2022 General Assembly session.  Staff will not be able to complete all of the new studies in addition to the previously-directed studies this year, so members referred the list of potential new topics to the Commission’s Executive Committee for recommendations as to how to prioritize the proposals.

The following studies were previously directed by the Commission:

  • Access and affordability of assisted living facilities: This study is intended to focus on the auxiliary grant program, which supports individuals who receive Supplemental Security Income or meet other criteria for age, blindness, or disability, and will examine the feasibility of implementing alternative models to finance assisted living care.
  • Reducing unnecessary emergency department utilization: The Commission will review trends in emergency department utilization and identify options to encourage the provision of care in lower-cost, preventive settings when appropriate.
  • Structure and financing of local health departments: This study will compare public health services provided by local health districts across the state, examine how the state supports local departments both financially and operationally, and compare Virginia’s system to other states.
  • Provider data sharing to improve quality of care: This study will examine barriers to additional participation in state data sharing programs by providers, how increased participation may be encouraged, and how the information being collected may be used to improve quality of care.

The following additional topics were referred during the session:

  • Local health department structure, financing, and lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic: Study issues to be examined would include whether local health departments are effectively structured and funded, and what lessons from the pandemic might inform future preparedness.  In the discussion on this item, members noted that a separate joint subcommittee was established during the session to examine pandemic preparedness and that these concepts would likely be addressed in that study.
  • Vertically integrated health insurance carriers: Issues to be examined would include differences in payments between affiliated providers and unaffiliated providers, and any associated risks to consumer protection and market competition.
  • Potential coverage through Medicaid for services addressing social determinants of health: This study would examine non-medical services or other interventions that have proven effective in improving health and what authority might exist to fund such services through Medicaid.  During the discussion on this issue, it was noted that this concept might be addressed in the previously-directed study of emergency department utilization, which could address what preventive services could avoid emergency department visits.
  • Eating disorders: This study would examine the prevalence of eating disorders, the adequacy of education and training of medical providers as well as school staff on the topic, and what policies could be implemented to improve prevention, detection, and treatment.
  • Prescription drug price benchmarking: This study would examine policies states could adopt to monitor and control the price of prescription drugs.
  • Coverage for obesity services through Medicaid: Staff noted that the bill directing this study includes a statutory deadline of November 2023, so there is ample time to conduct the research, which would examine whether there are additional services in this area that could be covered by Medicaid and the cost for providing such services.

The Commission’s executive committee is scheduled to meet May 18, with a full Commission meeting scheduled later that day.

VACo Contact:  Katie Boyle

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