Virginia Chambers of Commerce Support Coverage for the Uninsured and the Positive Economic Benefits
Prominent regional Chambers of Commerce from across the Commonwealth are in favor of Virginia recovering federal funding available through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to help as many as 400,000 uninsured Virginians get health coverage. Many Virginia Chambers of Commerce support this because it will return taxpayer dollars to the Commonwealth, have a positive benefit on public health, help workers, stimulate new employment, and boost the economy. The Chambers that support this position include the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, Chamber RVA, the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Hampton Roads Chamber, the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, and the Roanoke Regional Chamber. Together, these groups represent more than 6,000 businesses in the Commonwealth with nearly 1.2 million employees.
While increased health coverage for thousands of uninsured Virginians is often discussed in terms of access to medical care, it is important to remember that in addition to improving health it would also contribute to economic gains. Research done by Chmura Economics & Analytics indicates that “the health care sector, business, and households in Virginia all stand to benefit” if the Commonwealth expands health care access. In fact, a 2015 Chmura analysis projected that the total economic impact from increased coverage in Virginia would average $3.5 billion and 26,500 jobs from 2015-2020 – positive economic results nine times greater than if the Commonwealth opts not to increase health care access for the uninsured. It is also estimated Virginia would realize millions in state budget savings over the next several years, totaling nearly $131 million in net savings through state fiscal year 2022. By declining to draw down funds available through ACA – funds that are supported by Virginia tax dollars but not currently coming back here – the Commonwealth is missing out on an estimated $5 million in funding each day and has foregone more than $10.5 billion in funding in recent years.
“From a business perspective, health care doesn’t have to be a partisan issue. Employers are concerned about running effective and efficient organizations,” said Chamber RVA President and Chief Executive Officer Kim Scheeler. “One challenge many local business leaders have encountered in recent years is rising health insurance costs, which can squeeze employers and employees alike. Taking advantage of policies and funding available to relieve that pressure makes good business sense.”
“We value local businesses and their important role in the fabric of our community and our economy,” added Beth Rhinehart, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce. “That includes health care providers, which are not only some of the top employers in the Commonwealth, they are also top employers in many of Virginia’s rural communities. Our health care providers have an unfunded mandate from Washington to treat all people, even those without insurance. Helping thousands more Virginians become insured is a step in the right direction to address how charity care ends up costing all Virginians.”
Hampton Roads Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Bryan K. Stephens noted that the region “appreciates the importance of our health care providers as places that deliver vital medical treatment and as major economic contributors. From 2007 through early 2016, health care and related jobs accounted for the largest employment growth sector in our region, adding nearly 19,500 jobs. And our hospitals in Hampton Roads contribute hundreds of millions in community benefit and employ nearly 25,000 people. Considering all those contributions, it is important for policy decisions to take into account the invaluable economic role of our health care providers.”
“In Northern Virginia, hospitals and health care providers are not only vital to our economy and public wellbeing, they are key partners in driving the innovation that defines the 21st Century economy,” said Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Corcoran. “That’s why it is critical to advance public policy that maintains our health care sector as a vital and vibrant contributor to our state and regional economy.”
Roanoke Regional Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Joyce Waugh noted that “a healthy workforce with fewer work days lost to illness or injury is a productive workforce, which is a good thing for workers, their families, and employers. This year, Virginia has an opportunity to develop a fiscally responsible plan to cover thousands of uninsured Virginians in a way that protects and improves the economy in which we all participate. Like any business leader would, we encourage policy makers to evaluate the facts and develop solutions that are good for the public, our economy, and the Commonwealth.”