VA Democrats Should Demand McDonnell Call a Special Session on Insurance Exchange


    by Paul Goldman

    Chief Justice Roberts has just done VA Democrats a huge favor; namely, several ways to drive the policy and the politics of the Commonwealth in a very positive direction. As Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel correctly suggests in in today’s Richmond Times Dispatch: the Supremes have just changed the health care metrics in Virginia. It is now reality time.

    This being the case, the issue of whether to form a state health care insurance exchange – in short to allow certain Virginians to have greater access to a greater choice of health care options – or let Uncle Sam do it for us is now front and center as a pressing policy option. The law says Virginia must choose to go one way or the other, roughly by election day. Thus to use Mr. Hazel’s construct, those who want to govern Virginia have to choose their reality.

    1. BECOME A REPEALER. This is a time-honored Southern tradition for those who know the region’s history. “Repeal Obamacare” is going to be, now more than ever, a GOP 2012 political war cry. The Governor and VA Republicans could therefore decide to do nothing relative to the state exchange option, preferring instead to hope for the voters to make “Obamacare” Dead Law Walking come the day after the election. But this puts politics above the duty to lead. Moreover, it ain’t gonna happen.

    The point being: The day after the election, the Repealers will be flat-footed, having wasted precious months and begging the very federal government they claim is irresponsible to save them from their own irresponsibility.

    2. BLAME THE DOG FOR EATING THEIR HOMEWORK. Having been irresponsible, the Governor and his GOP posse will have to ask Uncle Sam for an extension of time to choose between the state or federal insurance exchange options. This is fiscally irresponsible, indeed irresponsible on many fronts, and hardly the approach needed to make the best decision for Virginia.


    3. DO YOUR JOB. The Supreme Court has ruled. So like it or not, the state of Virginia is going to have to choose either to govern itself or become a ward of the federal government in the area of insurance exchanges, serving a huge number of our citizens. I thought that conservatives like the Governor believed in states rights? And I thought they believed that with rights go responsibilities?

    CONCLUSION: VA Democrats need to whine less and act boldly more. Democrats must lead the fight for a state insurance exchange. If we need Washington to govern us on this, then why not just simply become the first state to do away with state government and let the folks in DC appoint our political leaders, just turn Virginia into one big federal plantation?

    Virginia Democrats should demand Governor McDonnell create a bipartisan working committee of lawmakers, health policy experts, small business owners and average working families to develop options ready to be presented to the General Assembly at a Special Session in time to meet the timeline in the federal law.

    We have a gubernatorial election in 2013. That is to say: We are choosing the next leader of Virginia. If the Republicans find the burden of governing too demanding, then it will be good for the public to learn this soon as possible, so they can take that into account in 2013. Oh, and if Republicans find the state exchange issue too difficult, imagine what is going to happen when Governor McDonnell has to decide on the issue of Medicaid expansion.

    Surely the UVA mess taught a good lesson: the willingness of Democrats like David Toscano, Joe Morrissey, and of course Tim Kaine to push for decisive action can help move the process to a fast conclusion. Governing requires leaders to make decisions. Some are hard, some don’t work out. But many are not difficult at all.

    Choosing to govern ourselves instead of leaving it to Washington is a no-brainer for anyone in Virginia politics. Either you are for a Virginia exchange or you’re for one run by the bureaucrats in the federal government. To paraphrase singer Laurie Morgan: “What is there about NO to Uncle Sam on this issue that you don’t understand?”

    • ir003436

      Let’s get started.

      1.  Write letters to editors of every newspaper in your area.  Draw on this diary for your arguments.  In your letters, name your Delegate and State Senator and demand they take action to establish health insurance exchange.

      2.  Contact your Delegate and State Senator and demand they take action to establish health insurance exchange.

      3.  Talk it up among your friends and urge them to do 1. and 2., above.

      4.  Do what we can to ensure the Democratic candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general make this a campaign platform.

      5.  Don’t wait for guidance, assistance, or suggestions from the DPVA — that’ll never happen.

    • glennbear

      Unfortunately VA has a sad history of fighting tooth and nail against federal law when it requires acknowledging the constitutional authority of federal supremacy. Given the current extreme right position of the GOP I do not see much cooperation coming from Bob and the Richmond gang especially since justice Roberts has attached the dreaded T word to the individual mandate.  

    • aznew

      The minority Leader has, in effect, already backed this idea:

      That said, Toscano’s comments in this article seem to come across more as those of a detached observer rather than a key player with the ability to force action.

    • glennbear

      On Sept. 30 2010 VA happily accepted a $1,000,000 grant to start planning for health care reform. It should be noted that the Advisory Council has NO members representing the health care consumer. This is in keeping with the VA GOP paternalistic school of governance which says that “We know what is best for the people we represent therefor we have no need to get their input”. From :

      State Planning Grant

      Awarded September 30, 2010

      Administrator: Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services    

      Amount Awarded:  $1,000,000

      Establish task forces in six key areas, Medicaid Reform, Insurance Market Reform and Exchanges, Delivery and Payment Reform, Capacity, Technology, and Purchasers, via the Virginia Health Reform Initiative (VHRI).  VHRI has been established within the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Resources. VHRI Advisory Council members represent leaders from the legislature, health care delivery, health care policy, health insurance, and the business community.

      Provide options on the planning, research, development, and implementation issues on how an Exchange’s governance, financial operations and oversight, and technical infrastructure.

    • glennbear

      Apparently governor “I want to be VP” McD is not alone in fighting implementation of health care reform, he recently had an interesting conference call: