I’m continuing my seven week series highlighting 51 unique accomplishments by the Republican-led House of Delegates. I’ll be sending weekly emails about our successful efforts, as well as daily posts on my Facebook and Twitter pages. If you missed last week’s email, you can read it here.

Our tax reform package was the highlight of this year’s legislative session. It provides nearly $1 billion in tax relief for Virginia families. In addition to tax reform, we passed several bills to make healthcare more affordable and keep our communities healthy.

#10 – Better Insurance Access

This year, we passed a series of bills to help lower health insurance costs, improve transparency, and ensure better care. Our reforms put patients first.

The House passed legislation to make it easier for small businesses to join together on health insurance coverage through “association” health plans. For too many small business owners, providing healthcare to their employees, or even just for their own family is too expensive. This legislation will allow members of a sponsoring association, such as a chamber of commerce, to access more affordable health insurance plans.

We need to help our small businesses succeed and level the playing field by lowering the cost of providing healthcare to their employees.

#11 – Maternal Mortality Review Team

According to a recent study by USA Today, approximately 700 mothers die each year in the United States from pregnancy or childbirth complications and another 50,000 suffer severe injuries.

This year,the House of Delegates passed legislation creating a maternal mortality review team within the Virginia Department of Health. The legislation will require the Department of Health to review the rate of pregnancy-associated and pregnancy-related deaths in the Commonwealth, identify risk factors of pregnancy-associated or pregnancy-related deaths, identify other factors contributing to pregnancy-associated and pregnancy-related deaths, and develop recommendations for prevention and intervention programs to reduce the rate death and injury.

The bill also requires certain health care providers, law-enforcement officers, funeral directors, or other persons having knowledge of pregnancy-associated and pregnancy-related deaths to report such deaths.

#12 – Lifted the Age Cap on Autism Health Coverage

This year, Delegate Bob Thomas carried legislation to lift the age cap on autism health coverage, expanding access to health insurance for about 10,000 Virginians diagnosed with autism. I was proud to co-patron this key piece of legislation.

Currently, state law only says that health insurers must offer such coverage for individuals from age two through age 10. No other prevalent health condition including– asthma, diabetes and cancer– has coverage limits imposed based on the age of the patient. Coverage for all other health conditions is based on medical necessity.

Many of these children are not diagnosed until they are already six or seven years of age and need access to important care for longer than just three or four years

#13 – Right to  Shop

This year the House of Delegates passed “Right to Shop” legislation patroned by Delegate Kathy Byron. This gives patients more power to find the most affordable healthcare delivery option.

Healthcare pricing varies widely, yet very few consumers “shop” for the best prices, just as they would for car maintenance or groceries. This leads to higher health care costs, which in turn drive up premiums. The “Right to Shop” legislation treats healthcare like a “shoppable” good/service and encourages consumers to seek the most cost-effective care by providing incentives for savings

Similar programs have been implemented in Florida, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts. New Hampshire implemented an incentive framework for the state three years ago and, so far, 90 percent of enrollees has shopped with over 60% shopping every year and receiving incentive payments.  The state has saved $12 million and paid out $1 millino in incentives.

#14 – Ending Teen Access to Tobacco Products

Our children and teenages are the leaders of tomorrow. However, the United States Surgeon General has declared the use of teenage vaping as an “epidemic” that threatens to leave an entire generation of young people addicted to nicotine.

In 2018, over 20% of high school seniors reported vaping in the last 30 days compared to 11 percent in 2017. For 10th graders, it was 16% in 2018 compared to eight percent in 2017. For 8th graders, it was six percent in 2018 compared to three percent in 2017.

For these reasons, this year we took a significant step towards ending teen access to tobacco products.

The House of Delegates passed legislation to raise the age required to purchase tobacco products to 21. This will help eliminate tobacco use in our high schools, where 18-year-old seniors often serve as the access point for younger students. Increasing the legal age required to purchase to 21 aligns tobacco products to other adult products including beer, wine, and distilled spirits.