Healthy Virginia Families

 

There is no cause more important to me than helping our citizens lead healthy lives, so every Virginian can have the freedom to pursue their own version of the American dream. Disease does not discriminate: we all face illness at one point or another, and we are all connected in the pursuit of society-wide good health.

I can tell you that as a nurse, there isn’t a day that goes by when we don’t feel the impact of a government that doesn’t work for us. We see the breakdowns in society, with a front-row seat for the successes and failures in how our system is set up. We know how many families in the Commonwealth are struggling with mental health issues, addiction, pre-existing conditions, and the domino effects that these problems cause on their lives, from finances to education and beyond.

If there’s one reason I decided to consider running for Lieutenant Governor in the first place, it’s because there was no way I was going to stand back and watch another Virginia family be set up to fail.

Listen, the bottom line is simply this: better health care saves Virginians money and makes us more competitive economically as a Commonwealth. And we’d be foolish not to do everything we can to make the best healthcare system in the country available to every Virginian, regardless of their zip code.

 

Incentives for Critically Needed Providers

Many people know we have a provider shortage here in Virginia, but when you take a look at the numbers, the impact is staggering. Right now, Virginia has only only one psychiatrist for every 5300 people. Only one dentist for every 2700 Virginians, and the average age of those dentists is over fifty years old. And if you think those numbers are dire, we probably shouldn’t look at the numbers for everything from primary care providers to volunteer EMTs and firefighters.

Luckily, there’s no shortage of ways we can fix this and make things better for ALL Virginians. Things like:

  • Exempting critically needed medical professionals (like dentists, psychiatrists, nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians assistants, etc) who agree to live and work in “medical deserts” from state income taxes

  • Tax credits for employers that hire/retain volunteer emergency services personnel, including tax credits for giving paid time off; with special benefits to those (especially small businesses) who do so in “medical deserts” (rural/underserved locales)

  • Give fiscally-strapped Virginia counties a credit to send county citizen providers (emergency services and healthcare related) to a Virginia school for free training if they’ll agree to work/volunteer for a certain amount of time

  • Shorten the time required for Nurse Practitioner autonomous practice from the most onerous in the country (currently at 10,000 hours) to standards in-line with those of the US Military and Department of Health and Human Services.

These are all common-sense solutions that have bipartisan support behind them. And there are hundreds of thousands of Virginians waiting desperately for us to do so.

Veterans to the Rescue-  literally!

If you’ve a returning US Army Medic, US Navy Corpsman, or have held another equivalent position in the US Military, we need to make it easier, not harder, for you to find a job helping people in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We need to team up with the Board of Health Professions and learning institutions in the Commonwealth to build programs specifically tailored for returning veterans to turn their already extensive training into a degree to become a medical professional.

And if they go to a medically underserved part of the Commonwealth to practice? Then the Commonwealth should stand up for the men and women who’ve stood up for us, and pick up the tab.

Require Healthcare Providers to Know and Follow Your Health Plan/Advance Directive

We need to respect people’s wishes for what they want done with their lives and their bodies at every opportunity we can.

This should be pretty slam-dunk, you’d think, but the patchwork of laws and non-transferable medical records we have currently is so concerning to people that some will go as far as literally tattooing “Do Not Resuscitate” on their chest. But even that isn’t a legal document medical providers can follow, and nobody should have to modify their own body just to make sure that their health wishes are followed.

Accordingly, it should be required by state law that, starting at age 18, healthcare providers— like your primary care physician, admitting physician for a hospital, et cetera— be obligated to ask you once a year what your wishes are in case you become medically incapacitated, so it is in your medical records and easily accessible. Because you deserve to have that power for yourself!

Community Paramedicine

Right now, if you call 911 and an ambulance is dispatched to your location, the only way that ambulance gets reimbursed for their visit is if they take you to the emergency department.

But maybe you don't need to go to the emergency department. Maybe you just need to go to your primary care provider. Or maybe it just turns out you need your medications and vital signs checked. Or a breathing treatment. No reimbursement occurs unless you're taken to the ER. So either the EMS crews will simply "eat" the cost of their visit (meaning we all "eat" it as taxpayers), or they will do the only thing they can do with no other alternatives allowed them— transport their patient to the ER. Many of these patients are also on Medicaid or Medicare, which means we're all paying for their ER visit, as well.

I love my job as an ER Nurse, but we're the least efficient place to deliver care.

We need to enable paramedics, hospitals, and state and local governments work together and start a coordinated push for community paramedicine. Community paramedicine brings medical care to the people who need it, instead of shifting the burden onto the ER to provide it. It helps keep folks in their own homes, instead of in hospitals and nursing homes. It provides for the health of our communities in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible— while improving overall care! Community paramedicine is the answer, and we need to fund and implement these programs statewide as soon as possible.

NO FREE RIDERS- Everyone should have skin in the game!

You’re young. Invincible. Untouchable. Who needs health insurance? Waste of money. You’re gonna live forever. And then you get cut off by someone texting and driving, and get into a major car accident. Thanks to the amazing folks at the University of Virginia, Carilion Roanoke, Inova Fairfax, Sentara Norfolk, or VCU- and after an ICU stay and rehab stint- you’re about as good as new.

But unless you’ve got a seven-digit long pile of cash sitting in your bank account, there’s no way you’ll be able to pay off the bill you’ve got coming, even under a medical bankruptcy that’ll follow you your whole life. So who pays instead?

The answer is simple: we all do. Anyone who pays taxes in Virginia, or accesses any part of the healthcare system here in the Commonwealth helps foot those bills.

If the federal government and the current Administration in Washington have no desire to step up and enforce the principle of personal responsibility, then we need to do it here in Virginia, and enact a No Free Rider law mandating every individual in the Commonwealth of Virginia have health insurance coverage. Everyone should have some skin in the game, and when they do, it helps lower everyone’s health insurance premiums.

If you’re under the poverty line, unemployed, on disability, have a religious exemption, or even just a working Virginian who’ll pay an insane amount for health insurance coverage (central Virginia has, literally, the most expensive insurance coverage rates in the entire country), then the Commonwealth will stand with you. We’ll do what it takes to help you stand up to help yourself, whether it be through tax incentives for your or your employer, or finding you coverage through existing programs you may not realize you qualified for.

The best way we can stand up for ourselves is to stand up for one another!