Gov. Ralph Northam recently issued Executive Directive Five, directing actions to increase the number of Virginians enrolled in quality, affordable health care coverage.

This year, Medicaid expansion is providing access to health coverage for more than 325,000 eligible Virginians who have enrolled, positively impacting their health. But meaningful health coverage remains unaffordable for too many Virginians, due in large part to federal policies that have increased cost and decreased the quality of available coverage.

“Health coverage should be both meaningful and affordable, but unfortunately, policies from Washington threaten to increase the number of families who are uninsured or underinsured,” Northam said. “It’s more important than ever that we identify and implement policies at the state level that control costs and ensure that Virginians can afford to buy health insurance that covers their health care needs.”

Executive Directive Five requires Virginia explore strategies to reduce health insurance premiums statewide, and protect Virginians from federal uncertainty. The Secretary of Health and Human Resources, in collaboration with the Secretaries of Finance and Public Safety and Homeland Security, will review policies and programs and take actions to promote greater access and enrollment in quality, affordable health insurance coverage. The Secretary of Health and Human Resources will work with state agencies, community partners, providers, health plans, and policy makers to implement policies and processes that will result in measurable and sustained improvement in access to affordable health care coverage.

“Health care is about wellness and well-being, but it is also an economic issue for many Virginians,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey, M.D. “We know that quality, affordable health care coverage allows families to maintain employment, pursue educational opportunities, and have more money for other important personal investments and we need to protect and build on the gains we have made.”

The Secretary of Health and Human Resources will develop data-driven strategies to create efficiencies in coverage and improve health outcomes, with a special focus on particularly vulnerable populations, including but not limited to: pregnant women, justice-involved populations, non-English speaking populations, individuals with disabilities, and youth in foster care. The Secretary will also look for solutions to improve affordability through state innovations.

Officials at the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association wrote in a statement that their members “appreciate Governor Northam’s continued focus on identifying consensus-driven reforms to increase the number of Virginians enrolled in quality, affordable coverage and to reduce health insurance costs. Even now, many Virginians lack affordable health care options. This negatively impacts access to care and health outcomes, particularly for people in vulnerable populations.

“Virginia hospitals have undertaken efforts to reduce health care costs through value-based improvements in care delivery and have partnered with the Commonwealth on initiatives to enhance access to care, such as the commitment hospitals made in 2018 to fund the state’s share of Medicaid expansion costs. In that continued spirit of cooperation, we pledge our ongoing support to Governor Northam, Secretary Carey, and other partners as we work to make Virginia the healthiest state in the nation.”