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Will Republicans Put a Health Insurance Industry Lobbyist on the Powerful Virginia State Corporation Commission?

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Earlier today, Gov. Northam issued the following statement (see below) “regarding the double-digit health insurance rate increases Virginians can anticipate as a result of the Trump administration’s actions  to undermine the insurance market.” I just wanted to make a couple points here.

First, just a quick reminder that this bill (SB 844: “Authorizes health insurance carriers in the Commonwealth to offer short-term health plans.”) is still hanging out there, awaiting action by Gov. Northam after his recommendations were rejected by the General Assembly. In short, this crappy bill would allow for substandard, short-term insurance plans in Virginia that would destabilize the Affordable Care Act in the Commonwealth. I’m not sure if this bill is tied to Medicaid expansion in any way, but of course there might not be action on that front by May 18, when Northam needs to sign or veto SB 844. Also, does anyone understand why the Senate vote on this bill was 40-0, while the House of Delegates vote was party-line, 51-46 (with every Democrat – other than 3 who were absent – voting no)?

Second, as you might be aware, energy/insurance lobbyist David W. Clarke “is emerging as the consensus candidate of the House of Delegates to fill a highly coveted seat on the State Corporation Commission [SCC].” According to VPAP, Clarke lobbies for WellCare Health Plans Inc, which “provides managed care health plans primarily through Medicaid, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug plans for more than 4.4 million members across the country.”  If Clarke ends up on the powerful SCC, he will be one of a few people overseeing the regulation of health insurance plans — and likely approve double digit increases — in Virginia. Seems like a really dumb political move for Republicans to put a healthcare industry lobbyist in that powerful position as the 2019 General Assembly elections approach, but I’m not one to give them advice, I suppose. Heh.

Governor Northam Statement on Anticipated Double-Digit Health Insurance Rate Increases

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today issued a statement regarding the double-digit health insurance rate increases Virginians can anticipate as a result of the Trump administration’s actions  to undermine the insurance market.

“I am disappointed that the Trump administration’s active sabotage of the health care system will result in many Virginians and Americans paying more for health coverage. Those policies include a recent announcement encouraging substandard short-term health insurance plans that ultimately result in financial penalties on people with pre-existing conditions.

“It is essential that Virginia’s leaders clearly state our opposition to any policies that seek to undermine the sustainability of the insurance market our citizens depend on for their health and financial stability. But we can also take commonsense, proactive actions right now that will help to ameliorate these rate increases and stabilize the health insurance market for years to come, like expanding Medicaid. Virginians need affordable health coverage and meaningful access to medical care, and we have a responsibility to do everything in our power to ensure that happens.”

The Virginia Bureau of Insurance reports that most insurers offering coverage through the individual insurance market will raise rates between 15.0% and 64.3% in the coming year, due to the rising cost of health care but also federal actions or inaction that raise costs and create uncertainty in the insurance markets. One insurer, Optima, will reduce rates between 1.9%.

For more information on changes to health insurance rates in Virginia, please visit http://www.scc.virginia.gov/boi/co/acafilinginfo/files/acaratefile.pdf.