Senate Passes McClellan Bill to Increase Access to State-Based Health Exchange

Bill Will Increase Outreach, Awareness of Savings for Virginians under The Virginia Health Benefit Exchange 

RICHMOND, Va. – Today, the Senate of Virginia unanimously passed Sen. Jennifer McClellan’s (D-Richmond) SB 469 to provide more Virginians with information about how to save money on their health care under the state-based health exchange.

McClellan’s bill directs the Virginia Health Benefit Exchange to develop a budget and plan for strengthening marketing and navigator services. The bill will enable increased awareness of marketplace insurance options and the availability of subsidies, enable individuals to pick which plans best fit their unique situations, and help reduce the costs of premiums. 

Legislation passed in 2020 – carried by Sen. McClellan in the Senate and Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax) in the House – created the Virginia Health Benefit Exchange under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Exchange is in the process of being implemented by the State Corporation Commission. 

McClellan’s 2022 bill is a recommendation of the Joint Commission on Health Care, as part of its study addressing health insurance marketplace affordability in the individual market. McClellan serves on the Commission.

“By equipping the state-based exchange with improved navigation tools, we are empowering more Virginians to get the health care they need to live a healthy life,” Sen. McClellan said. “This bill gets us one step closer to making sure all Virginians are properly insured with the health-care that best fits their individual needs.” 

This bill will enable the advertising, outreach, and assistance strategy of the exchange to be transparent to the public as well as help identify target markets and ways to best reach them. It will also determine how much should be spent on marketing and outreach versus navigator assistance and equip the exchange with a method to measure its enrollment and assistance efforts.  

By increasing awareness and assistance for applicants, it will boost enrollment in the individual market in a cost-effective manner while reducing the number of people uninsured and adding young individuals into the marketplace. In fact, over half of those surveyed nationally, ranging from ages 18 to 34, are unaware that they might qualify for financial assistance through the Affordable Care Act and are unaware of varying health insurance options. 

Additional younger and healthier enrollees is one of the most effective ways to ensure low and stable health insurance premiums, which has been a challenge in Virginia. Across the Commonwealth, premiums increased by 53 percent from 2016 to 2021, leading to a 21% drop in enrollment in the individual market. About two-thirds of those who dropped their enrollment were those aged between 18 and 34.