Coming into the 2021 Virginia General Assembly, we knew we had an uphill battle with our Association Health Plan (AHP) legislation. While this legislation did not pass as we had wanted, our efforts are not done yet. As we work toward future AHP legislation, we are also supporting and monitoring other options that are in the works—options that could mean positive changes for our members and their access to affordable healthcare.
We have identified and supported other efforts to lower health insurance premiums for our members. At the state level, a proposal we supported passed the General Assembly that would create a “reinsurance” program in Virginia.
Fourteen other states have established a similar reinsurance program. And in those states, premium costs went down by 16.9% on average in the first year. While there is no guarantee of premium reductions in following years, some states have experienced multiple years of lower premiums. For example, in neighboring Maryland, costs decreased by more than 30% over the 3-year life of their reinsurance program (2019 – 13% reduction, 2020 – 10% reduction, and 2021 – 11% reduction).
Now that Virginia’s reinsurance program has been approved by the General Assembly, we will continue to work with the policy makers and the insurance industry over the coming year to address future concerns.
COVID-19 Relief Package
Another policy change that is being discussed at the federal level as part of the current COVID-19 relief package could provide a benefit for REALTORS®. As it stands, this federal legislation will increase the amount of subsidy funding available to help individuals pay for ACA-compliant individual market plan premiums. The legislation also removes the 400% of federal poverty level income cap to allow more individuals to qualify for the ACA’s subsidies, MEANING MORE OF YOU COULD QUALIFY FOR ASSISTANCE. That translates to lower premiums.
Association Health Plan Legislation Update
Over the previous year, we worked diligently to address concerns of lawmakers had about AHPs. We kept the comprehensive, ACA-level consumer protections, such as requiring essential health benefits and protecting individuals with pre-existing conditions, to ensure our members received a quality plan. We limited the plans to just real estate licensee members of the Virginia REALTORS® to reduce the potential impact on the broader Affordable Care Act marketplace.
We had success in the Virginia Senate with our health plan legislation, SB 1341, passing the Senate on a 38-1 vote. However, the initiative will not move forward this year. A subcommittee of the House Labor & Commerce decided to refer the legislation to the Virginia Joint Commission on Health Care for further study. The Governor has not signaled any change in his opposition to our bill. So, this keeps the initiative in play and facilitates bringing it back next year under a new Governor.
Even though our effort came up short this year, REALTORS® responded with a great advocacy effort. REALTORS® sent nearly 9,000 messages to legislators in our 2021 calls for action.