Gov. Ralph Northam signed a new healthcare bill into law that will provide relief to many small business owners currently struggling with the Central Virginia insurance premium crisis.
Members of local advocacy group Charlottesville For Reasonable Health Insurance had provided testimony at the Virginia General Assembly and organized an email campaign, helping to ensure passage of the bill through the legislative session. Introduced by Sen. Creigh Deeds and effective July 1 2018, SB672 will allow self-employed people to take advantage of the much more affordable health plans in the small group business marketplace, without having to hire employees.
Charlottesville and surrounding counties (Albemarle, Green, Fluvanna) have by far the most expensive healthcare premiums in the nation in 2018. Rates more than tripled for consumers buying coverage on the ACA Individual Exchange, making comprehensive insurance unaffordable for people who do not qualify for subsidy assistance. A typical family of four is being charged $3000 per month for high deductible plans.
“SB672 will provide critical relief for our self-employed community, who are unable to afford the 300% premium increases foisted upon us this year by Optima” said Shawn Cossette, who made numerous trips to Richmond to lobby for the bill. “These small group policies are ACA compliant covering pre-existing conditions and preventative care, which I feel is as important as being affordable.”
Without alternatives to the outrageous rates being imposed by Sentara’s Optima Health monopoly, hundreds of individuals and families face financial hardship to buy health coverage that was affordable in 2017. Many are going uninsured or making significant compromises on the quality of coverage.
Ian Dixon, an organizer of CRHI who has been actively disputing Optima’s rates with the Virginia Bureau of Insurance (BOI) says many people are still without a coverage solution.
“The new law will help many people in our group who operate their own business but don’t have a full-time employee on payroll to qualify under the old regulation. But it’s a work-around, not a fix to the issue of the BOI approving Optima’s scandalous rates in the individual market. And there are many people in our group still out in the cold, like early retirees.”