Becky Bowers-Lanier | VHF & HACA Advocacy Consultant

At the time of this writing, the 2020 General Assembly is about to adjourn its “long” (60 day) session until the Assembly returns for the “reconvened” one-day session April 22nd. It’s been a session of firsts:
– First time in a generation that the Democrats are in the majority in both the Senate and the House;
– First female Speaker of the House (Del. Eileen Filler-Corn); and
– First time VHF had to cancel its annual advocacy day traditionally held on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day.

While we missed our day, we thank you for advocating for a bill when we sent out a call to action and look forward to sharing more advocacy opportunities in 2020.

We’ve been working to make sure that any health insurance plans that are passed into law do not negatively impact our community and to support measures to decrease the cost of health care more broadly for all Virginians. We’ve been mostly successful.

On the relatively positive side for health insurance, Del. Chris Hurst and Sen. George Barker HB 795 (Del. Hurst) and SB 235 (Sen. Barker) have submitted identical “association” health plan bills. If the bills pass, Virginia will submit an application to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services for a state innovation waiver under the Affordable Care Act to implement health plans for an association or members of an association (such as the Farm Bureau) to create policies. Most of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act will be required under the plans. Unfortunately, the plans may pull away people from the community risk pool that keeps a large number of people in the marketplace and helps to keep the cost of insurance lower for all.

Two identical plans introduced by Del. Sam Rasoul and Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (HB 1037 (Del. Rasoul) and SB 404 (Hashmi) will create short-term, limited duration health insurance plans for no more than 180 days in a year. These plans do not have to adhere to all the requirements of the Affordable Care Act and may include no coverage for prescription drugs and pre-existing conditions, which are critical for our community. The plans also carry higher premiums and cap services. Our community members should avoid carrying these plans, but they may work for younger, healthier people who need to get a short-term coverage.

Two bills, HB 1251 (Del. Torian) and SB 172 (Sen. Favola), deal with the problem of “surprise” billing which occurs when an individual seeks care in a hospital that is ‘”in network” for the individual but out-of-network for providers in the hospitals who subsequently charge the individual with a large, unexpected bill. This sometimes happens in emergency rooms where the hospital is listed as an in-network facility, but the emergency room physicians are out of network. The patient gets left holding the bag for a large medical bill. HB 1251 and SB 172 are designed to take the individual out of the equation and leave the billing solution up to the provider/facility and the insurance companies.

Finally, we are hopeful that Virginia will create its own state-based insurance marketplace so that we can move away from the federally facilitated marketplace which we have had since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Moving to a Virginia marketplace should drive down the cost of health insurance. The exchange is not due to begin until the end of next year, but both bills providing for the implementation have passed the General Assembly and are on their way to the Governor for his signature.

Thanks to all of you for your advocacy during the 2020 General Assembly session. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact Becky Bowers-Lanier at