House Dems announce support for health-insurance competition bill

Today, House Democrats announced their support for legislation to set up a health insurance marketplace in Virginia. Delegates Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) and Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) are introducing legislation modeled after the recommendations of Governor Bob McDonnell’s Virginia Health Reform Initiative (VHRI). The VHRI was formed to implement the federal health care reform law in Virginia. The bipartisan, 24-member group included representatives of business, hospitals, physicians, and the insurance industry.

“The most important reason to create an insurance marketplace has little to do with politics or the Affordable Care Act,” said Delegate Hope, a member of the VHRI.  “It will allow small businesses and individuals the opportunity to leverage similar to or even greater resources than that of large employers, using that clout to drive better pricing, choices, and quality.  And for that, we should do this regardless of how you feel about health care reform or its outcome at the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Scott), chair of the House Commerce and Labor Committee, announced in December that he will also introduce a bill establishing a health insurance exchange in Virginia. “HHS says we need to get started now so the Commonwealth will be ready to serve our citizens before 2014. We cannot wait.  I look forward to working with Delegate Kilgore to get the details right,” said Hope.

By establishing a state-run exchange, the Commonwealth will have complete control over its program. It will prevent the federal government from stepping in and dictating the plan’s design.

“Our exchange will be a uniquely Virginia approach with choice and competition,” said Jennifer McClellan, sponsor of a similar measure. “With over one million Virginians currently lacking health insurance coverage, the new marketplace will help reduce the number of uninsured and allow purchasers to compare and select the health plan that is right for them.”

The legislation establishes criteria for Virginia to create its own health insurance marketplace that encourages competition. Individuals and small business employees will be able to view side-by-side comparisons of physician and hospital affiliation, copayment and deductible levels, and premium levels.

“House Democrats are proposing to create a competitive marketplace where small businesses and individuals can collectively pool their resources to purchase health insurance at lower costs.  Reducing health insurance premiums for small businesses and individuals will provide a jolt to Virginia’s economy,” said Democratic Leader David Toscano (D-Charlottesville). “Virginians need the relief today. That is something upon which Democrats and Republicans can both agree.”


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