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Let’s make positive changes in Virginia’s health-care policies

This article originally appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Since the beginning of this year, our family has been in a constant conversation about health care, albeit not one of our own choosing. It’s not a conversation about policy proposals. Rather, we talk every day about which member of our family is consuming what health-care services and products. It’s the kind of conversation that occurs in just about every home in the commonwealth.

In just this year alone, we have visited health-care professionals easily more than 80 times. Hypochondriacs, you suggest? Not at all. In fact, if you visited our family you would think we were healthy. And I honestly think we are, too.

Why all the visits? Well, we have one child who suffered a traumatic brain injury, another child with juvenile arthritis, and yet another one who recently had an ovarian cyst rupture.

Not included in our immediate family’s visits to health-care professionals are the care we provide, directly and indirectly, for an in-law as he continues down the painful path of what is probably Alzheimer’s, and a nephew who has lived with us off and on and is battling the disease of addiction.

As a former member of the House of Delegates (2002-2010), I had a front-row seat on how health-care policy is debated and implemented. However, it was in my capacity as the general manager of my family’s 50-employee company, which provided 100 percent of the health-care premium for the entire family of an employee, where I really saw the true impact of those policy changes.

With all of this experience, one would think I have a pretty good handle on our health-care system, but I’d be the first to tell you: I don’t. I recently asked my wife, who administered our company’s plan, if she was pleased with the access, quality of care, or the cost of this year’s insurance. Except for a great experience with a customer service representative from our health insurer, Michele could not answer me.

This background played a big part in my response when I was recently asked to chair the Virginia Consumer Healthcare Alliance, a newly created organization dedicated to starting a real dialogue about the long-term health-care reform policies needed in our commonwealth. My first thought was that the last thing I needed was yet another argument about health-care policy. And I didn’t want to be part of another legislative battle resembling World War I trench warfare where nothing is ever accomplished. But, as a father and a businessman, I knew that I could not give up on the health-care system that is so central to my family and the commonwealth. We actually do need to have a real conversation about health-care policy in Virginia.

The brilliance of politics is not in being able to articulate one’s view of an issue, but rather in being able see another’s point of view as well, and work to a place where something can be accomplished with mutual satisfaction. Politics is a lot like marriage: You can always be right or you can be married, but you cannot be both.

Virginia has health-care policy challenges that need to be addressed, but very few of us trust that any changes will be positive. I get that. In 2009, we were told our family would save over $2,000 a year in premiums. Instead, ours have doubled. Our renewal arrived on my birthday and if we stay with the plan we chose last year we will pay $20,000 in premiums and $9,000 in deductibles.

Many Americans have similar stories to tell. So why would we expect anyone to trust any more promises from politicians, in either party, regarding their latest and greatest health-care policy proposals?

Let’s be honest. We need a win. Not a partisan political victory, but rather a win for everybody that begins to restore lost trust in our governing structures.

There is no more important policy area than health care. There is no better place than the critical battleground state of Virginia. We’ve had more than a few bumps in our recent political history.

Now, let’s resolve to work together to make some positive changes in order to leave our health care system better than we find it today.

Chris Saxman served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 2002-2010, and can be reached at

Find out more about the Virginia Consumer Healthcare Alliance at

This article originally appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch.