Public Comments for 03/03/2022 Commerce and Energy
SB338 - Commonwealth Health Reinsurance Program; federal risk adjustment program.
SB344 - Health insurance; coverage for donated human breast milk, effective date.
At Prolacta, we believe in the power of human milk and make a human milk based human milk fortifier used in level 3 and 4 NICUs through-out Virginia and across the country. We also believe that the safety of the human milk given to premature babies is paramount, which is why we support the substitute language requiring any human milk bank operating in Virginia to be licensed by VDH. The use of human milk in the form of donor milk and in the form of fortifier, which are different products that get mixed together to feed NICU babies is on the rise. According to the Human Milk Banking Association of America (HMBANA), their milk banks distributed 9.2 million ounces of donor milk in 2021 – an incredible 22 percent increase over their 2020 distribution. This is fantastic news for babies all over the country, including in Virginia. The CHKD milk bank is part of this expansive effort, doing incredible work into ensuring babies in need receive the donor milk that they need to survive and thrive. But these statistics also show the need for regulation of milk banks that are selling products to our most vulnerable citizens. At present, donor milk is regulated by the FDA as a food, leaving vast gaps in the oversight and regulation of this human tissue. This classification, which was determined before human milk was sold commonly throughout the country, has come under scrutiny by many states in recent years and has resulted in states requiring milk banks to be licensed just like other blood and tissue banks are licensed – by the government and with government oversight. These regulations, while not extensive, are universal and are key to ensuring babies receive safe nutrition, not an unregulated product. Most non-profit milk banks in the United States are dues paying members of and accredited by HMBANA. HMBANA is a great organization doing wonderful work and ensuring that more babies have access to life-saving donor milk. We praise HMBANA for their work. But we believe that, like blood banks, milk banks need to have independent, government regulations and oversight. You will likely hear opposition to the idea that members of HMBANA are required to be licensed, but I want to leave you with a few thoughts on this. First, HMBANA guidelines do have clinical standards, and we believe these should be taken into consideration by VDH as they draft regulations for milk bank licensure. But the HMBANA guidelines also prohibit for profit milk banks and women from being paid for their breast milk, and they simultaneously allow for the sale of raw unpasteurized human milk to their customers. That is why, in statute, there are at least 9 states that require milk banks to receive licenses from the state department of health, and do not allow HMBANA accreditation to serve as an alternative to department of health licensing. And more are following in their footsteps. I want to leave you with one final quote today, from the FDA’s homepage on donor milk and human milk banks. It is, “there are human milk banks that take voluntary steps to screen milk donors, and safely collect, process, handle, test, and store the milk. In a few states, there are required safety standards for such milk banks. FDA has not been involved in establishing these voluntary guidelines.” (emphasis added) I urge you to support the substitute bill to SB 344 to ensure that all milk banks selling into Virginia are licensed by the state. This will ensure babies have the safest milk possible.
SB347 - Electric utilities; SCC to establish for certain utilities annual energy efficiency savings targets.
Good afternoon madame chair and ctte members. I will be brief in my support of voting YES on SB347. I’m the Executive Director of a low-income weatherization provider in central Virginia. Our non-profit, the Local Energy Alliance Program, employs 17 people, who in 2021 installed over 250 utility-sponsored energy efficiency upgrades in the homes of low-incomne, elderly, and disabled Virginians, to directly lower a key cost of living, for those who could use the extra savings most. Our upgrades of heating and cooling, attic and window insulation, and better lighting improve lives by lowering energy bills every month. To further than work, we support SB347, as the bill will ensure that utility programs hit a minimum level of savings and are better targeted to deliver cost of living reductions, by aligning weatherization upgrades with health and safety upgrades, allowing us to reach the hardest hit customers we otherwise could not serve. I hope you’ll vote yes, to get the most bang for the buck from electric utility energy efficiency programs, which benefit all ratepayers by lowering overall costs.
SB351 - Workers' compensation; permanent and total incapacity, subsequent accident.
SB422 - Health insurance; tobacco surcharge.
SB434 - Health insurance; coverage for mental health and substance use disorders, report.
SB469 - Virginia Health Benefit Exchange; annual marketing plan.
SB494 - Virginia Human Rights Act; nondiscrimination in employment, definition of employer.
Good evening, Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, my name is Jonathan Yglesias and I’m with the Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance. We are wholeheartedly in support of this bill as a measure to provide needed consistency within the Human Rights Act and clear pathways to civil remedies for those who experience workplace harassment and discrimination. As many of you know, we represent Virginia’s 67 sexual and domestic violence agencies across the state and operate a 24/7 crisis hotline on behalf of these programs. Throughout the pandemic, our hotline has experienced a notable uptick in the number of callers who are reporting severe harassment at the hands of an employer. Many of these callers have had to choose between unsafe and even traumatizing working conditions versus the uncertainty of joblessness and housing insecurity during an already unstable time. For many survivors of sexual and domestic violence who are ready to leave shelter and attempt to become self sufficient after their abuse, these working conditions can force them to choose between their freedom from abuse or returning to an abusive relationship, to living in a car, or to re-entering the shelter. We believe that SB 494 is not only good policy for survivors of violence, but for all Virginia businesses and we hope that it is the will of the Committee to vote yes on this measure.
SB496 - Financial institutions; qualified education loan servicers, definitions.
SB565 - Natural gas, biogas, and other gas sources of energy; definitions, energy conservation.
SB624 - Home health workers providing agency-directed services; employer to provide paid sick leave, clause.
SB660 - Shared solar programs; evaluation for Phase I Utilities & electric cooperatives.
SB677 - Workers' compensation; cost of living supplements.
SB754 - Motor vehicle insurance; uninsured motor vehicle.
I am a licensed Virginia insurance agent, and have been for almost 40 years (30 in Virginia). I have numerous insurance certifications, including CPCU (Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter) and CIC (Certified Insurance Counselor). It was brought to my attention by Robert Bradshaw, President of the IIAV, that an insurer could deduct an underinsured motorist's liability limits from my claim, leaving me less than whole. For example, if I had a $130,000 claim and the underinsured motorist's carrier paid out its maximum of $30,000, I would only collect $70,000 from my insurer, because not only did my insurer deduct his limit from the value of my claim, they deducted it again from THEIR payout! This is my understanding of it, anyway. In all my years of licensing classes, property/casualty certification courses, continuing education, and speaking with numerous agents and experts, this issue has never been mentioned. I'm sure if asked, most agents are unaware of it. I certainly was. That being the case, I am certain almost no one in the public is aware of it. People buy insurance with the expectation that their chosen limit is what they'll get in a worst case scenario, not some quietly hidden reduction in the minutiae of their policy wording that the insurer can elect to operate at will. With as many uninsured and underinsured motorists as are out there, I can't believe this hasn't been tested in court many times. And I can't believe the Virginia Insurance Commission permits this anti-consumer option to even exist! Especially when no one, including those with extreme expertise in insurance, is aware of it! This provision is not only unfair, it is contrary to the bargain struck between insurer and insured, and leaves one in a grossly inequitable position, and leaving the victim far less than whole when they are most in need and vulnerable. I encourage all present to vote in favor of HB 754 and oppose the setoff. Or, at a minimum, require every insurer to give the insured an easily understood and well explained option to choose, if they are in fact already using this setoff. It is beyond my understanding that this existing practice is permitted and legal, and authorized by the Insurance Commissioner. It is anti-consumer, unfair, hidden, and grossly detrimental to anyone finding themselves in this situation without financial means to handle this loss. This is why we buy liability insurance, and we as consumers should not have to worry whether our insurer will deduct such an amount TWICE from our claim. Effectively, this offset allows an insurer to double dip on the reduction, such that a $130,000 claim results in a payout of only $70,000 if an underinsured motorist has minimum limits. It is outrageous and disgraceful to the industry, and a slap in the face to the consumer. Thank you.
SB120 - Waste coal piles; Department of Energy to identify volume and number, use of coal ash.