Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Health Insurance Bill Passes Virginia Senate

A bill that amends the Virginia code to permit private businesses to provide health insurance coverage to the domestic partners of employees or to other family members besides spouses and children under the age of 25 passed the Virginia Senate today with a vote of 26-14.

The bill (SB 1338), is patroned by Janet Howell (D-Reston) and copatroned by a bipartisan list of state Senators (Republicans Jeannemarie Devolites Davis, H. Russell Potts, and John Watkins, as well as Democrats John Edwards and Richard Saslaw). The bill now goes to the House of Delegates, where it will be considered by the Commerce and Labor Committee. The House patrons are Republicans Vince Callahan and James Dillard and Democrat Robert Brink.

Virginia is the only state in the country that forbids private businesses from offering health insurance coverage to anyone they wish (unless those businesses are self-insured).

Last year a similar bill passed the House but died in the Senate for lack of action. Let's hope that this year a better fate awaits it. The legislature of a state that purports to encourage and promote free enterprise should do no less. As an "issue brief" distributed during last year's General Assembly session explained:

In a classic example of government interference in the private sector, Virginia law currently prohibits private employers from offering health insurance benefits to persons other than a spouse and their children. For example, both United Airlines and Kroger offer such benefits to their employees nationwide. Their employees who live in Virginia, however, are unable to get these health insurance benefits, because Virginia's Bureau of Insurance prohibits private employers who are not self-insured from offering their Virginia employees such benefits to anyone other than a spouse and their children.

This interference with a private employer's choice about what healthcare benefits it will offer its employees costs Virginia residents valuable healthcare benefits and is a direct attack on free enterprise. It should be ended.

To urge your Delegate to vote in favor of SB 1338, send an email through the House of Delegates web site here.

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