New laws create more health insurance opportunities for small businesses in Virginia, real estate agents – Daily Press

Two new Virginia laws will create health insurance opportunities for two business groups that feel out of touch with cheaper coverage.

One allows associations to create a consortium of benefits that will help small businesses gain the same buying muscle that large employers have for large workers ’health insurance.

“It’s about access to health care, something I’ve worked on all my career and it’s affordable,” said state Sen. Monty Mason, D-Williamsburg, who backed the measure.

He said the law will help small businesses – between 50 and 50 employees – attract and retain employees by providing health coverage to employees and their families.

Other new laws allow the Virginia Real Estate Association to organize group insurance for its members.

“It’s a way to make health insurance cheaper,” Del said. Keith Hodges, R-Urbanna, who backed the Realtors Group insurance bill.

Both proposals have been a battleground for years because the Affordable Care Act would get enough people out of the health insurance market to raise everyone else’s premiums out of concern.

The idea for the benefits consortium bill, as presented at the General Assembly, is to establish a mechanism for groups such as the Virginia Chamber of Commerce to provide small businesses with relatively low premiums that small businesses can charge.

Mason said the idea consortium would bring together dozens of small business employees; if the risks are divided into a large number, the cost per person is lower. The consortium would be governed by a board of directors. Surplus revenue over claims and required reserves would be used to sustain future awards.

Mason said he had begun working on the proposal – his first effort was in 2020 – giving a speech to a House table and saying he thought it was a bad idea soon.

“They asked us if we could talk about it, and after explaining what we could do,‘ If you decide to go ahead, I’ll let you know and I’ll take it, ’” Mason said.

“We plan to form a consortium of benefits,” said Laura Ramthun, the chamber’s director of communications and marketing.

The state is waiting for the State Insurance Bureau to draft regulations, he said.

Basically, the law says that associations could set up something similar to the self-insured pool used by many large employers and make its coverage available to small businesses. With self-insurance, instead of buying a policy and relying on the financial resources of an insurance company to cover claims, the employer puts in their own funds, usually by hiring a company to run the program.

The coverage of the consortium should include all health benefits required by the Affordable Care Act, as well as the standard coverage costs and value of that act. Denial of coverage of pre-existing conditions would be prohibited.

Like employee compensation insurance, it would impose a base rate on participating companies, and when companies do not have real experience with claims, their specific premiums would be set at or below the base rates, and trends. the entire pool would determine future base rates.

The real estate bill takes a different approach, with individual members offering a way to buy insurance policies at rates quoted by groups rather than individual market rewards, said Martin Johnson, the association’s vice president of government relations.

For some, their income is high enough that they cannot take advantage of Affordable Care Act grants. For others who may not be doing well or who are just starting a career, even with grants, it can be difficult to pay the rewards.

“Real estate is not like other professionals: they are mostly independent contractors. So they can only get insurance in the individual market, ”Hodges said.

He said two key points helped him opt for the bill: first, 20% of real estate is uninsured, so his bill would bring down several thousand uninsured Virginians.

The second key point was that the bill says that any plans eventually put in place by real estate agents should include at least all of the key benefits required by the Affordable Care Act plans.

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This was in line with past efforts for alternative health coverage, such as extending short-term coverage, when health plans and other opponents said their narrower range of benefits would move away from the pools of ACA plans. The result would be a spiral of premium increases.

What the bill allows is for the association to buy group insurance for them – basically for the same group coverage that most businesses now buy, unless they choose a self-insurance program, Johnson said.

The association is in talks with insurance and the Insurance Office to see how this might work; whether or not it goes ahead will depend on the type of rates that are listed, Johnson said.

For those who get insurance through the ACA individual market, but try to extend the dollar by not buying the coverage they need, their bills would allow them to deal with their lack of coverage, Hodges said.

After heated discussions in recent years before the General Assembly committees, “there is not much controversy about the detrimental effect,” said Doug Gray, executive director of the Virginia Association of Health Plans.

The latest version of the benefit consortium bill was approved 40-0 and 63-35 by the State Senate and the House. The real estate law passed the House 95-2 and the Senate 40-0.

Dave Ress, 757-247-4535, [email protected]

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