WILLIAMSBURG, VA, 13 FEBRUARY 2018: The Senate of Virginia today approved several measures to lower the cost of healthcare and health insurance for Virginians. The bills will increase insurance choice for areas with only one carrier, expand the low-cost catastrophic care coverage option, increase the number of waivers for the intellectually and developmentally disabled, and increase competition among healthcare providers.
Senate Bill 844, sponsored by Senator Siobhan S. Dunnavant (R-Henrico) and incorporating a proposal by Senator Bryce E. Reeves (R-Spotsylvania), would place requirements on health insurers to offer plans in more areas of the Commonwealth. The bill would also allow less expensive “short term” coverage plans to be offered for 364 days instead of the current 90 days.
During debate over the legislation on Senate Floor, Senate President Pro Tempore Stephen D. Newman (R-Bedford), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education and Health, said, “This is a bill we will all remember, and one that should become a model for other states who want to help the middle class.” The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 844.
Senate Bill 935, sponsored by Senators Dunnavant and Frank W. Wagner (R-Virginia Beach), would expand the availability of group insurance plans, allowing more Virginians to participate in insurance “pools.” Passed earlier in the session, Senate Bill 935 was approved by a vote of 38 to 0.
Senate Bill 964, sponsored by Senator Sturtevant, would allow catastrophic health coverage plans, which provide essential health benefits, to be offered to more Virginians. Currently, such plans, which are significantly less expensive than other plans offered under the terms of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), are available only to those under the age of 30. Senate Bill 964 would remove this age limit and make the plans more widely available. The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 964.
Senate Bill 915, sponsored by Senator Dunnavant, would prioritize the funding of waivers for Intellectually and Developmentally Disabled Virginians. Funding for these waivers, for which there is a current backlog exceeding 3,000, has been a longstanding priority for Senate Republicans. In addition, the legislation prioritizes increased mental health and substance abuse treatment. The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 915.
Senate Bill 266 encompasses several exemptions to COPN, including neonatal care in the Roanoke Valley, and ambulatory surgical centers and MRI services in several regions of the state. The bill incorporates provisions from Senate Bills 235, 354, 365, 806, 848, and 923. Senate Bill 266 was approved by a vote of 20 to 19.
“From the beginning of this session, Senate Republicans have been focused on alleviating the high cost associated with healthcare and health insurance for Virginians,” declared Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (R-James City). “Senate Republicans are unified in our commitment to ensuring care to the those most in need, to expanding access to affordable care, and to increasing consumer choice. Until the federal government acts, the measures we approved today will form a framework going forward for Virginia to address the challenges associated with Obamacare.”
“The approval of these bills is an historic step forward in increasing access to care and affordability in coverage for Virginians,” Senator Newman noted. “The Affordable Care Act hasn’t been very affordable, and these bills help to expand the availability of affordable insurance to those who have been denied it since Obamacare went into effect.”