Republicans in both the House of Delegates and State Senate worked during the legislative session in Richmond this year to improve healthcare for Virginians. From increasing coverage for those with autism, expanding telemedicine, and raising the minimum age to buy tobacco and alternative nicotine products, over a dozen bills from the GOP will assist in promoting better healthcare and healthcare coverage for the 8.4 million citizens that reside in the Commonwealth.

H.B. 2639, introduced by Delegate Kathy Byron (R-Bedford), would require health insurance carriers to establish a comparable healthcare service incentive program under which savings are shared with a covered person who elects to receive a covered healthcare service from a lower-cost provider. This would allow one covered under an insurance plan to obtain the estimated out-of-pocket costs of healthcare services from providers, including any copayment, deductible, coinsurance, as well as quality data from those providers.

H.B. 2443, patroned by Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Rockingham), was written to allow trade associations to offer group health insurance plans for their members in response to a rule released by the Trump Administration that expanded the eligible groups to form association health plans. The bill would assist in promoting choice, access, and coverage to healthcare.

H.B. 2260, sponsored by Delegate Roxann Robinson (R-Chesterfield), would authorize carriers to offer catastrophic plans on the individual market. These plans are designed to be cost-effective, available mainly to younger people who do not need increased access to healthcare.

Also geared towards helping younger Virginians, S.B. 1240, introduced by State Senator Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania), authorizes health insurance carriers in the Commonwealth to offer short-term, limited-duration health plans. The plans are defined as those that have an expiration date that is less than 12 months after the original effective date of the contract, policy, or plan, taking into account renewals or extensions, and have a durations that do not exceed 36 months.

One of the most significant pieces of healthcare insurance-based legislation to come out of the 2019 legislative session was to expand coverage for Virginians with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Under current Virginia law, insurers must cover treatments for (ASD) from ages two through 10, which proves to be difficult for many parents to deal with as children grow past age 10. H.B. 2577, sponsored by Delegate Bob Thomas (R-Albemarle), lifts the age restriction for ASD coverage, meaning approximately 10,000 Virginians with autism will benefit from better access to healthcare, requiring health insurance plans to cover treatment, regardless of the patient’s age.

H.B. 2515, sponsored by GOP Caucus Chairman Tim Hugo (R-Clifton), requires carriers to count any payments made by another person on the enrollee’s behalf, as well as payments made by the enrollee, when calculating the overall contribution to any out-of-pocket maximum or any cost-sharing requirement under the carrier’s health plan.

The definition of “small employer” for the purposes of group health insurance policies has been altered under H.B. 2719 from Delegate Todd Pillion (R-Abingdon). According to the bill, “an individual who performs any service for remuneration under a contract of hire for (i) a corporation in which he is a shareholder or an immediate family member of a shareholder or (ii) a limited liability company in which he is a member, regardless of the number of members of the limited liability company, shall be deemed to be an employee of the corporation or the limited liability company. The measure provides that a health insurance issuer shall not be required to issue more than one group health plan for each employer identification number issued by the Internal Revenue Service for a business entity, without regard to the number of shareholders or members of such business entity.”

To rectify discrepancies in billing for emergency and elective services, H.B. 2538 from Delegate Lee Ware (R-Powhatan) requires healthcare facilities to determine if providers scheduled to deliver elective services are in the network of the covered person’s managed care plan. According to the bill, should the provider be out-of-network, the facility must inform the covered person of the out-of-network status, provide them with the opportunity to be referred to an in-network provider, and prepare a document for signature in which they assume financial responsibility for services performed by the out-of-network provider.

Also patroned by Delegate Ware, H.B. 1682 would expand access to affordable dental services by making it easier to determine which providers are included in an insurance network.

H.B. 1952, sponsored by Delegate Jeffery Campbell (R-Wythe), creates “patient care teams” to allow physician assistants to practice without direct supervision of a physician as long as they are operating as part of a patient care team.

Delegate Terry Kilgore’s (R-Gate City) H.B. 1970 would expand the use of
telemedicine services in Virginia and require health insurance plans to cover them.

H.B. 2026, patroned by Delegate Chris Stolle (R-Virginia Beach), directs the Board of Health to amend regulations governing newborn screening to include screening for congenital cytomegalovirus in newborns who fail the newborn hearing screenings.

A maternal mortality review team within the Virginia Department of Health will be created to study the causes behind pregnancy-associated and pregnancy-related deaths in the Commonwealth. H.B. 2546, also introduced by Delegate Robinson, will ensure that maternal fatalities occurring in the Commonwealth are analyzed in a systematic manner.

H.B. 1878, introduced by Delegate Scott Garrett (R-Lynchburg), adds employees of regional jails to the list of individuals who may possess and administer naloxone or other opioids, provided they have completed a necessary training program.

A bipartisan push in this year’s 46-day session also led to the passage of Delegate Stolle’s H.B. 2748, which increases the minimum age for purchasing or possessing tobacco products, nicotine vapor products, and alternative nicotine products from 18 to 21. The bill provides that the first violation by an individual or a retail establishment would be punishable by a civil penalty of up to $100, rising to a maximum of $200 for a second violation, and up to $500 for a third violation.