2015 General Assembly Report
The 2015 Virginia General Assembly completed its work in 44 days on Friday, February 27th. It was a fast and furious session in which slightly less than 3,000 bills, including the amendments to the biennial budget, were heard. About half were disposed of, either in the house of origin or after “cross-over.” Governor McAuliffe has signed a few bills into law (he is required to act on bills if they are sent to his office seven days prior to the close of session). The last day for the Governor to act on the remaining bills is March 30, 2015. The General Assembly will return on April 15th for the “reconvened” session to act on bills either amended or vetoed by the Governor.
VBCF did not seek any breast cancer specific legislative action this session, but was actively involved in supporting the following measures:
- Bills to assert a woman’s right to breastfeed in public. HB 1499 (Albo) and SB 1427 (Wexton) added one line to the Department of Health section of the Code of Virginia stating that “a mother may breast-feed in any place where the mother is lawfully present.” The need for this bill arose out of a situation in Northern Virginia where a breastfeeding mother was arrested for indecent exposure when she breastfed her baby in public. In addition to making common sense, VBCF supported the measure because breastfeeding reduces the risk of developing breast cancer.
- Bills to streamline the process of obtaining prior authorization for a prescription. For Virginians who have had to wait while an insurance company determines whether a prescribed medication may be approved for administration, these bills should help. HB 1942 (Habeeb) and SB 1262 (Newman) will standardize and streamline the prior authorization process. The original intent was to require that all health plans utilize one form for electronically authorizing a medication. While not achieving standardization, the electronic processes were streamlined – Not perfect, but likely a better process.
- Bills to reduce the out-of-pocket costs of specialty tier prescription medications. VBCF joined a coalition of advocates representing chronic medical conditions (the Virginia Alliance for Medication Access and Affordability) to advance two bills, HB 1948 (McClellan) and SB 1394 (Dance). While the bills both failed, the measure will be sent to the Health Insurance Reform Commission for study. For more information, visit FairCoPayVA.
- Bills to improve access to investigational drugs in the event of life-threatening illness. With the passage of HB 1750 (Ransone) and SB 732 (Stanley), the so-called “right to try” measures will expand access to investigational drugs when terminally ill individuals agree to a set of requirements in order to gain access to drugs that are in the investigational stages only. This movement is backed by the Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Experimental Drugs.
If you have any questions about these bills or other measures in the 2015 General Assembly Session, please contact Becky Bowers-Lanier, VBCF advocacy consultant, at becky@B2Lconsulting.com.