The state of West Virginia likely will address healthcare reform in a piecemeal fashion next year rather than make another attempt at passing a comprehensive reform plan, a key West Virginia state senator has predicted.
The prediction follows last month's failure by the West Virginia Legislature to pass a sweeping healthcare reform measure introduced by Democratic Gov. Gaston Caperton. The key provision of the plan would have created a five-member healthcare authority or board charged with drafting a universal access plan by 1995 (Jan. 31, p. 16).
When the state Senate took the plan off the legislative agenda prior to the March 20 close of its 1994 session, West Virginia joined a growing number of states that are taking a step back from healthcare reform and waiting for whatever national reform plan comes out of Washington (Feb. 28, p. 3).
Under Mr. Caperton's plan, the new West Virginia healthcare authority also would have been required to:
Set a cap on total healthcare spending in the state by 1997.
Mandate new cost-control strategies for all state health programs.
Encourage the formation of healthcare networks by creating antitrust exemptions for providers.
Coordinate all state health-related information gathering activities.
Increase state technical and financial support of local initiatives to develop primary-care delivery systems.
"The bill was pretty good, but it wasn't wonderful," said state Sen. Martha Walker (D-Charleston), chairwoman of the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee. "This was too much at one time."
West Virginia has a short legislative session, giving state lawmakers 60 days to introduce, debate and pass legislation.
Steven Summer, president of the West Virginia Hospital Association, said the group withdrew its support for the governor's plan after it was changed substantially in the Legislature, which attempted to add a hospital rate-setting plan to the package.
However, Mr. Summer said he was optimistic about passing some form of healthcare reform next year.
"No one can afford to fail for a third time," he said. A state reform plan failed to pass the Legislature in 1993.
Ms. Walker said she expected healthcare reform to make next year's legislative agenda, but she said reform likely will be addressed in separate, incremental measures.