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Richmond Times Dispatch: House Democrats urge state-run health-insurance exchange Print


Created:  Tuesday, Janaury 10, 2012  12:20PM

A day ahead of this year's legislative session, House Democrats rolled out their chief push: the establishment of a health-insurance exchange to be administered by the state.

In a news conference, Dels. Jennifer L. McClellan, D-Richmond, and Patrick A. Hope, D-Arlington, announced that they would introduce health-insurance competition bills that would set up a state-run exchange ahead of 2014, when all provisions of President Barack Obama's health-care overhaul are set to take effect.

One of the many provisions of the law -- which has been challenged by 26 states, including Virginia – would establish a health-insurance exchange system to be administered by either the federal government or the state.

Though Democrats have little power in the House, with Republicans enjoying a 67-32 majority, there's a fair chance the legislation could pass the legislature.

The bills are modeled on the recommendations of Governor Bob McDonnell's Virginia Health Reform Initiative, of which Hope is a member, formed to implement the federal health-care reform law in Virginia.

Some Republicans, like Del. Terry G. Kilgore, R-Scott, and Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan, have also voiced support for the idea and signaled that they may introduce legislation.

House Minority Leader David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville, said a state-run exchange would add competition to the marketplace, provide more choice for consumers and help small businesses provide assistance to employees at a lower cost.

"Finally, it's going to allow Virginia to maintain control over how these exchanges get set up...and prevent the federal government from imposing its own exchange on Virginia," Toscano said.

If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the federal health-care law, the legislation would expire, McClellan noted.