Farmers, Realtors, and other professional groups shouldn’t be allowed to form their own health plans, according to Governor Ralph Northam.
The reason? Those folks might be too healthy.
Northam, a Democrat, vetoed two bills late Thursday that would have allowed trade associations and other professional groups to go outside the current marketplace system set up under Obamacare and contract for their own unique health plans.
While a significant number of Virginians get their health insurance through their employers, smaller businesses don’t have the buying power to get better rates.
Shopping for plans on the Federal exchange is cost prohibitive, with premiums containing to skyrocket and deductibles rising the point of uselessness.
Enter association health plans, which allow similar businesses or trade associations to band together to form one buying pool. That drives down costs, giving smaller businesses the same advantage that large employers enjoy.
Northam thinks that’s a bad idea.
“This bill would undermine current efforts to stabilize the Virginia health insurance marketplace,” he wrote in his veto message to the General Assembly.
“Virginians who enroll in AHPs may be disproportionately healthy when they enroll, leading to higher premiums for Virginians who do not qualify for an AHP and remain in the marketplace.”
Before the veto, Northam attempted to amend House Bill 2443, said Del. Tony Wilt, R-Harronsburg. Wilt said the amendment actually made the bill worse.
“[Northam] included language that rendered the bill useless and actually took us backwards with regards to a specific policy related to the ability of self-employed individuals to access the small group market,” he said in a statement.
“Virginia’s expansion of Medicaid did nothing to address the increasing challenges that middle-class families face in trying to obtain and afford their healthcare – in some respects it only made it worse,” he said. “We must implement policies that can provide more affordable coverage options for these middle-class families that simply can’t afford premiums that have doubled or tripled.”
“It’s disappointing. Farmers and their families in my community have been asking for this for years. The exchanges just price them out of the market completely,” said Del. Chris Head, R-Roanoke.
“The Governor is just flat wrong on this one. Lots of these folks are going without health insurance now. They’re not in the marketplace at all,” he said.
Legislators can’t override the veto, as the legislature has already adjourned for the year and has already had it’s one-day “veto session” in early April.