Poll: Virginians Strongly Support Targeted Behavioral Health Funding, State Investments in Health Care Workforce Development, Insurance Industry Financial Transparency, and Eliminating Emergency Department Penalties

March 3, 2022

Statewide Survey Conducted by McLaughlin & Associations Assesses Voters’ Views on Health Care Policy Issues in the General Assembly

RICHMOND, VA – New poll results show that nine out of 10 voters (91 percent) back a plan to have state officials share more information with the public about health insurance profits and finances, and two-thirds (66 percent) support elimination of a state policy that financially penalizes doctors and hospitals for providing emergency care to Medicaid patients. Strong majorities of Virginia voters (86 percent) also support state funding to address health care workforce shortages, and 66 percent favor public investments to fund innovative pilot programs and alternative care models to enhance behavioral health care treatment services available to Virginians.

These findings are among the results of a recent statewide poll of 400 likely Virginia voters conducted by McLaughlin & Associates that includes questions about several health care policy issues over which the Virginia General Assembly has jurisdiction.

Key poll findings include:

Voters’ Views on Payor Policy Issues

  • As employers and households continue to face rising insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs, 91 percent support the concept of legislation advancing in the General Assembly that would require the Commonwealth to provide more financial transparency to the public about insurance industry profits, medical expenditures, administrative costs, medical loss ratios, and other metrics.
  • Several states including California, Missouri, New York, and Washington have already established standards to promote health insurance transparency and make information accessible to consumers.
  • Two thirds of voters (66 percent) favor the elimination of a harmful policy that penalizes health care providers who serve Medicaid patients. Under that policy, which is embedded in the bills legislators are now considering to set the next two-year state budget, the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) can cut provider reimbursements to roughly $15 when a Medicaid patient seeks care in a hospital emergency department if DMAS retroactively decides the visit wasn’t a true medical emergency. Those decisions can apply to the treatment of hundreds of serious medical conditions including diabetes, heart failure, and pneumonia. That state policy is inconsistent with U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) guidance, it contradicts federal law that requires health care providers to give emergency care to anyone who seeks it, and it is at odds with provisions of Virginia’s Medicaid managed care contract that prohibits retroactive claim denials for emergency care.

Strong Support for Health Care Workforce Investments

  • 86 percent support state budget investments to fund scholarships and loan programs for the training of future nurses, psychiatric professionals, and other health care workforce development initiatives.
  • Current state budget legislation includes funding for several of these items at a time when health care staffing shortages that predate the pandemic have only gotten worse. A recent analysis found that Virginia has more than 9,000 open permanent nursing jobs, 1,100 of which have become open since August 2021. Meanwhile, a Becker’s Hospital Review evaluation of federal data shows that 18 percent of Virginia hospitals recently faced critical staffing shortages.

Funding for Behavioral Health Treatment Programs

  • To help strengthen behavioral health treatment services for Virginians, 66 percent support targeted investments in innovative programs and alternative care models, rather than approaches that would primarily invest taxpayer funds in the state-run behavioral health system.
  • The need for enhanced treatment options is reflected in the increased demand for hospital-based mental health and substance use services observed during the pandemic, and when significant shares of Americans and Virginians indicate their mental health has suffered. The growth in demand for treatment services has placed a significant strain on state-run and private sector facilities that have experienced serious staffing challenges.

The recent statewide public opinion poll conducted by McLaughlin & Associates is the latest in a series of surveys commissioned by VHHA to help identify health care issues of concern to Virginians and to inform the Association’s approach to developing corresponding public policy solutions. The poll of 400 likely Virginia voters was conducted March 1-2, 2022 and featured live landline and cell phone interviews, and text-to-web contacts with Virginians from all regions of the state representing a wide array of ethnic, gender, age, and political diversity reflecting the demographics of the Commonwealth.

About VHHA: The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association is an alliance of 110 hospitals and 25 health delivery systems that develops and advocates for sound health care policy in the Commonwealth. Its mission is to achieve excellence in both health care and health to make Virginia the healthiest state in the nation. Its vision is through collaboration with members and stakeholders, to ensure the sustainability of Virginia health care system, transform the delivery of care to promote lower costs and high value across the continuum of care, and to improve health for all Virginians. Connect with VHHA through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Julian Walker
Vice President of Communications
(804) 297-3193 office
(804) 304-7402 mobile