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Governor Northam vetoes GOP healthcare bills

Photo: Gov. Ralph Northam / Twitter
Photo: Gov. Ralph Northam / Twitter(WHSV)
Published: May. 18, 2018 at 6:42 PM EDT
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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has vetoed a handful of GOP-backed bills related to health care.

Northam vetoed a bill that would have allowed all groups like the Virginia Chamber of Commerce to pool their members together in a group to shop for health insurance. Supporters said it would help reduce costs.

He vetoed Senate Bills 844, 934, 935, and 964, which he said "would put Virginians at risk of being underinsured, result in rapidly increasing Marketplace premiums, and undermine key protections in the Affordable Care Act."

Northam said that legislation and other Republican-backed bills he vetoed would undermine efforts to expand affordable health care. He said lawmakers could help lower rising health care costs by expanding Medicaid to 400,000 low-income adults.

The GOP-led General Assembly is currently split on whether to expand the publicly funded health care program for the poor. The disagreement has led to a lengthy delay in passing a state budget that threatens a potential state government shut down on July 1.

Below, you can find Northam's full statements on his vetoes of each bill:

Senate Bill 844 May 18, 2018 Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto Senate Bill 844. This bill would authorize health insurance carriers in the Commonwealth to offer short-term health plans that last up to 364 days, contingent upon the adoption of federal regulations extending the allowable length of short-term health plans. This legislation would place consumers at risk of being underinsured and would fragment Virginia’s federal Marketplace risk pool, leading to rapidly increasing premiums. Senate Bill 844 would allow insurance carriers and individuals to circumvent the protections in the Affordable Care Act. Short-term plans are stopgap policies that frequently do not cover mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, prescription drugs, or maternity benefits. People with minimal current health care needs are more likely to purchase these skimpy plans, leaving people who have more significant health care needs in the Marketplace. The adverse selection associated with short-term plans, in combination with the elimination of the federal individual mandate, will increase Virginia Marketplace premiums 19.1%, according to the Urban Institute. Virginia is already witnessing unnecessary premium increases in the preliminary rate filings insurance carriers have submitted for 2019, because of federal actions destabilizing the Marketplace. We are fortunate to have a better opportunity to expand health care to people who need it and make it more affordable for all Virginians. Expanding Medicaid will connect nearly 400,000 people with insurance and return millions to the state budget to support other priorities that make life better for Virginians. Additionally, states that have expanded Medicaid have Marketplace premiums that are an average of 7% lower than states that have not, demonstrating that expansion will benefit far more people than just those who will receive coverage. Senate Bill 844 would undermine efforts to make sure all Virginians have access to quality, affordable health care. Accordingly, I veto this bill. Sincerely, Ralph S. Northam Senate Bill 934 May 18, 2018 Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto Senate Bill 934, which would allow non-profit associations to sell health insurance plans to their members, exempt from state taxation and insurance regulations. This legislation would place consumers at risk of being underinsured and would fragment Virginia’s federal Marketplace risk pool, leading to rapidly increasing premiums. Senate Bill 934 would allow non-profit associations and their members to circumvent state protections as well as those in the Affordable Care Act. Through this exemption, association plans would not be required to provide comprehensive coverage and may not cover essential benefits like mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, prescription drugs, or maternity benefits. Moreover, association plans will be able to discriminate against people by charging them more based on characteristics like their gender and occupation. People with minimal current health care needs are more likely to purchase these meager plans, leaving people who have more significant health care needs in the Marketplace. The adverse selection associated with these plans would contribute to the increase in Virginia Marketplace premiums. Virginia is already witnessing unnecessary premium increases in the preliminary rate filings insurance carriers have submitted for 2019, because of federal actions destabilizing the Marketplace. We are fortunate to have a better opportunity to expand health care to people who need it and make it more affordable for all Virginians. Expanding Medicaid will connect nearly 400,000 people with insurance and return millions to the state budget to support other priorities that make life better for Virginians. Additionally, states that have expanded Medicaid have Marketplace premiums that are an average of 7% lower than states that have not, demonstrating that expansion will benefit far more people than just those who will receive coverage. Senate Bill 934 would undermine efforts to ensure that all Virginians have access to quality, affordable health care. Accordingly, I veto this bill. Sincerely, Ralph S. Northam Senate Bill 935 May 18, 2018 Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto Senate Bill 935. This legislation would replace references to "bona fide association" as used in provisions applicable to health insurance plans with the term "sponsoring association." Senate Bill 935, in combination with Senate Bill 934, would place consumers at risk of being underinsured and would fragment Virginia’s federal Marketplace risk pool, leading to rapidly increasing premiums. This bill would make technical changes to allow non-profit associations and their members to circumvent state protections as well as those in the Affordable Care Act. Through this exemption, association plans are not required to provide comprehensive coverage and may not cover essential benefits like mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, prescription drugs, or maternity benefits. Moreover, association plans will be able to discriminate against people by charging them more because of characteristics like gender and occupation. People with minimal current health care needs are more likely to purchase these skimpy plans, leaving people with more significant health care needs in the Marketplace. The adverse selection associated with these plans would contribute to the increase in Virginia Marketplace premiums. Virginia is already witnessing unnecessary premium increases in the preliminary rate filings that insurance carriers have submitted for 2019, because of federal actions destabilizing the Marketplace. We are fortunate to have a better opportunity to expand health care to people who need it and make it more affordable for all Virginians. Expanding Medicaid will connect nearly 400,000 people with insurance and return millions to the state budget to support other priorities that make life better for Virginians. Additionally, states that have expanded Medicaid have Marketplace premiums that are an average of 7% lower than states that have not, demonstrating that expansion will benefit far more people than just those who will receive coverage. Senate Bill 935 would undermine efforts to make sure all Virginians have access to quality, affordable health care. Accordingly, I veto this bill. Sincerely, Ralph S. Northam Senate Bill 964 May 18, 2018 Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto Senate Bill 964, which would direct the Commissioner of Insurance to request federal permission for insurance carriers to offer catastrophic plans to all individuals purchasing coverage through the Marketplace. This legislation would place consumers at risk of being underinsured and would fragment Virginia’s federal Marketplace risk pool, leading to rapidly increasing premiums. Senate Bill 964 would allow insurance carriers and individuals to circumvent the protections in the Affordable Care Act. Under current law, catastrophic plans are only available for individuals who are younger than 30 years of age and individuals who qualify for a hardship or affordability exemption. Catastrophic plans typically have lower premiums because they require individuals to pay deductibles in excess of $7,000 before the plan pays for health care costs. People with minimal current health care needs are more likely to purchase these threadbare plans. This adverse selection would contribute to the increase in Virginia Marketplace premiums. Virginia is already witnessing unnecessary premium increases in the preliminary rate filings insurance carriers have submitted for 2019, because of federal actions destabilizing the Marketplace. We are fortunate to have a better opportunity to expand health care to people who need it and make it more affordable for all Virginians. Expanding Medicaid will connect nearly 400,000 people with insurance and return millions to the state budget to support other priorities that make life better for Virginians. Additionally, states that have expanded Medicaid have Marketplace premiums that are an average of 7% lower than states that have not, demonstrating that expansion will benefit far more people than just those who will receive coverage. Senate Bill 964 would undermine efforts to make sure all Virginians have access to quality, affordable health care. Accordingly, I veto this bill. Sincerely, Ralph S. Northam

 Wilt Statement on Veto of Voter Registration Legislation

 
Harrisonburg – Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Rockingham) released the following statement after learning that Governor Northam will veto House Bill 1144:
 
“I am deeply disappointed in the Governor’s decision to veto HB 1144. This was a common-sense bill that would have improved accuracy and accountability in the voter registration process. It simply required any third-party individual that assists an applicant with the completion of their voter registration application to include their basic contact information on the application.
 
 “In vetoing the legislation, Governor Northam used scare tactics and misinformation to justify his decision, claiming that the failure of an individual to include this information could lead to delays or denials of eligible voter applications.  We were meticulous in our review of this legislation and were assured by staff attorneys that an otherwise valid application could not be denied based on missing contact information.
 
“Instead, this would have provided registrars an additional tool to correct possible errors and further educate individuals working as part of a voter registration drive on the need to ensure the accurate completion of applications. In the more egregious cases, it could have also served as a way to deter voter registration fraud and provided valuable information to investigate suspected cases of registration fraud.
 
“Voter registrars from across the Commonwealth report that applications turned in as part of registrations drives often contain numerous errors and omissions. That’s why the Voter Registrars Association of Virginia saw the value in this legislation and fully supported it.
 
“It is unfortunate that the Governor opted to once again revert to his party’s position of avoiding any policy that might remotely improve the integrity and accuracy of the election process.  This position is out of touch with the desires of the Virginia electorate and I had hoped for better from our new Governor.”