Danny's Desk: News from the Virginia General Assembly
Feb 09, 2016

Southside Economic Development Money to Medicaid? COPN Reform?

In Richmond, thankfully, most bills are straightforward with the main purpose stated up front. That makes it easier to spot bills that are detrimental to our area -- like one in the Senate, introduced by Senator John Edwards (D-Roanoke), with the objective to strip all money from the Tobacco Commission and redirect the money to Medicaid Expansion. This is a bad idea for a number of reasons.

The Tobacco Commission is all about creating jobs in Southside and Southwest Virginia. The money does NOT come from taxes or state money, but a settlement from tobacco companies. It is to be used to help revitalize the areas where jobs were lost due to the loss of the thriving tobacco business that once existed here.

The Commission seeks to help attract companies that will bring high-paying jobs with good benefits. It cannot do this on its own, but in partnership with the localities within the tobacco footprint. Bringing good jobs will help raise people out of poverty so that they don’t need Medicaid expansion.

The bill died in the Senate Finance Committee this week. There is always the drive to pass bills, but sometimes it is more important to stop bad bills.

COPN Reform

The upcoming week at the General Assembly will be extremely busy. It is the final week before Crossover, so there will be a large number of bills finishing up in committees and going to the House Floor. All House and Senate bills must be acted upon by Tuesday, February 16th, and those that make it through each body will move to the other chamber.

One very important issue at hand is the Certificate of Public Need (COPN). It is the process that restricts hospitals and medical providers from open competition. You saw this with Centra and Danville Regional and the center in Gretna.

If a hospital wants to put in high-priced equipment, it must go before a Board to get authorized. Right now, a hospital cannot “just do it.”

This process restricts access for medical services for citizens and drives up the cost of services. I am 100% a free-market person. There is a problem with rural area hospitals; we often do not have a choice. In Richmond and other urban areas, there are 3 or 4 hospitals from which to choose.

Federal law mandates that that hospitals must give service to anyone who walks in the door, whether or not the person has the ability to pay. I know of no other business where the Federal government says that you have to give your product or service away.

That can put hospitals in a financial bind. Somebody has to pay for those free services. Higher charges that result from COPN are used to cover those free services.

There were more than 12 House bills related to COPN reform when we started Session. Now there are 3 left. I am not on the committee that hears these bills, so I am waiting to see which bills and which versions make it out of committee this week and to the Floor where I will have a vote. It is a very complicated issue that needs careful examination.

As bills progress through the Legislature, you are able to find information about them and track them by going to the Virginia General Assembly Website. You can even request alerts. Access:  virginiageneralassembly.gov

We are currently in our offices in Richmond. You can contact us by sending an e-mail to DelDMarshall@house.virginia.gov or by sending a letter to me at PO Box 406, Richmond, VA 23218-0406, or by calling 804-698-1014. And, visit www.dannymarshall.com to complete our 2016 Survey (on lower right Homepage).