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Time Ticking for State’s Decisions about Affordable Care Act

PHOTO: The deadline for Virginia and other states to make major decisions about implementing the Affordable Care Act is fast approaching.
PHOTO: The deadline for Virginia and other states to make major decisions about implementing the Affordable Care Act is fast approaching.
November 13, 2012

RICHMOND, Va. - With the election now behind us, it's time for Virginia and other states to decide not if but how they are going to implement the Affordable Care Act. It's a complex issue with plenty of confusion to go around, says Mike Jorgensen, senior vice president for health policy at the Medical Society of Virginia. He and others will be part of a panel discussion tonight in Richmond about what the Affordable Care Act will mean for the state, for doctors and for the thousands of Virginians set to gain health-insurance coverage.

One big component is what kind of health-insurance exchange Virginia will implement, Jorgensen says.

"The state will determine whether or not to pursue a state-based health exchange, or - as was mentioned as a possibility last week by Gov. McDonnell - go to a federal exchange model."

Jorgensen says the exchanges will allow individuals to buy health insurance and can be run by the state or the federal government. The Virginia Health Reform Initiative group, which was formed by the governor, recommended a state-based exchange, he says, which would give the state more control. The deadline to decide on an exchange was recently extended to Dec. 14.

The state must also make a decision regarding the expansion of Medicaid. Jorgensen says that comes with lots of questions, many of them financial, such as how much responsibility the state will shoulder and how much funding the federal government will provide.

"Setting aside the fiscal - the financial - implications of that for the state, it would enable citizens in the Commonwealth who would not qualify or who perhaps could not afford to get their insurance through the yet-to-be established health-insurance exchanges."

According to some estimates, the Medicaid expansion could cover 400,000 low-income Virginians. This evening's Affordable Care Act discussion is hosted by the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy and Virginia Consumer Voices for Healthcare. It is open to the public.

The event, "Community Conversation on Health Care Implementation in Virginia," will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Temple Beth-El, 3330 Grove Ave., Richmond.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA