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The Government House Blog
Health Reform Task Force Continues Efforts to Revitalize and Overhaul Territory's Healthcare System
Posted by Jean Greaux on July 23, 2010 at 2:45 PM AST

The territory’s health, financial and legal leaders assembled at a high-level meeting at Government House on St. Thomas Wednesday to continue the discussion of the efforts to revitalize and overhaul the Virgin Islands healthcare system. The meeting was an opportunity to review and discuss next steps in the historic reform process, including efforts to revamp the territory’s Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance (“CHIP”) programs. This was the second meeting of the Task Force.

Executive Order 449-2010 requires the Task Force to ensure implementation of applicable sections of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Healthcare and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. With this second meeting, key stakeholders continued the process of providing timeline-driven recommendations regarding the implementation of healthcare reform initiatives to the Governor. The Task Force is chaired by Lieutenant Governor Francis.

Lieutenant Governor Gregory R. Francis chairs the second meeting of the Health Reform Implementation Task Force at Government House, St. Thomas on July 21, 2010.

The primary objectives of federal healthcare reform include: expanding health insurance coverage to the uninsured; ending discriminatory practices against the uninsured; decreasing health insurance premiums; expediting the claims process; reducing uncompensated care costs; and preventing waste, fraud and abuse. 

In a press conference held June 9, 2010, Governor de Jongh unveiled the Administration’s plans to holistically reform the territory’s healthcare system.

"This task force represents our understanding that the business of healthcare reform cannot happen in a vacuum. It will take discussion and coordination as we explore every opportunity to realize our goal of making healthcare accessible to all residents, and not just a select few," Lieutenant Governor Francis said.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Task Force members received updates on various issues, including a preliminary review of the fiscal impact of healthcare reform by OMB Director Debra Gottlieb. Legal Counsel to the Lieutenant Governor, Dwayne Henry, Esq., provided a review of insurance reforms mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), and Solicitor General for the Department of Justice Elliot Davis, Esq. provided an update on the GVI’s legal authority to implement the Affordable Care Act. 

The Virgin Islands Health Reform Implementation Task Force is comprised of 14 members, including Lieutenant Governor Gregory R. Francis, who, in his capacity as Commissioner of Banking and Insurance, serves as Chairman. Task force members also include Health Commissioner Julia Sheen-Aaron; Human Services Commissioner Christopher Finch; Office of Management and Budget Director Debra Gottlieb; Division of Personnel Director Kenneth Hermon; Attorney General Vincent F. Frazer; Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor Pamela B. Berkowsky; Schneider Regional Medical Center CEO Alice Taylor; Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital Interim CEO Darice Plaskett; Frederiksted Health Care, Inc. CEO Masserae Sprauve Webster; St. Thomas East End Medical Center Corp. Executive Director Wilbur Smith; GESC-Health Insurance Board of Trustees Chairman John Abramson; Virgin Islands Equicare Director Nancy Bass; and the Legislature’s Chairman for the Committee on Health, Hospitals, and Human Services Senator Patrick Sprauve. Barbara Lee-Jackson, MPH serves as the Task Force’s Healthcare Reform Coordinator.

During the meeting, Peter Hiebert, Esq., Counsel to the Government from Winston & Strawn, and Marcia Morgan, a Medicaid expert from Alicia Smith & Associates, also provided an update on the forthcoming guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as it relates to the treatment of the territories and offered insights regarding the potential impact of the various reform measures. 

The next meeting of the Virgin Islands Health Reform Implementation Task Force will be held on August 25, 2010 on St. Croix.