Public Comments for 01/19/2023 Commerce and Energy
HB1375 - Health insurance; tobacco surcharge.
We've gone from health insurance (a hedge against an expected ,but unknown event) to health care. Financing every planned expense and moral hazard. On to insolvency. SEE EU for results.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on House Bill 1375 which prohibits insurance companies from using an individual’s tobacco use in setting premium rates. The American Lung Association strongly supports this bill as an integral way to support tobacco users who want to quit. The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. The American Lung Association is committed to making it as easy as possible for smokers to get evidence-based assistance to help them quit and end their addiction to nicotine. Data shows seven in ten smokers want to quit but only one in ten quit successfully in a year. This bill makes it easier for smokers to access quality and affordable healthcare, including treatments to quit smoking. Under current Virginia law, a health carrier may charge premium rates up to 1.5 times higher for a tobacco user than for a non-tobacco user. Punitive measures like tobacco surcharges have not been proven effective in encouraging smokers to quit and reducing tobacco use. Research suggests that even low surcharges can cause tobacco users to opt out of coverage. 1 Tobacco surcharges can result in tobacco users paying thousands of dollars more in health insurance premiums as demonstrated by a study in California which showed that an average tobacco user could end up paying 18.7 percent of their annual income in premiums because of the surcharge.2 High costs deter tobacco users from purchasing insurance which can leave tobacco users without coverage for treatments that will help them quit and treatments for potential tobacco-caused illnesses.3 Their families may also remain uninsured. There are other policies that are proven to reduce tobacco use, such as: increasing tobacco taxes, enacting smoke free laws, funding tobacco control programs and making tobacco cessation treatment accessible through health insurance coverage and quitlines. The American Lung Association thanks the Virginia General Assembly for their continued commitment to the health and wellbeing of the residents of the Commonwealth. The American Lung Association strongly supports House Bill 1375 which would eliminate the current tobacco surcharge and encourages swift action to move the bill out of committee and passage by the General Assembly.
HB1408 - Workers' compensation; presumption of compensability for certain cancers.
HB1410 - Workers' compensation; presumption for arson and hazardous materials investigators.
HB1517 - Virginia Consumer Protection Act; automatic renewal or continuous service offers.
HB1639 - Unemployment compensation; reduces time to file appeal.
This law shouldn't pass until all of the kinks are ironed out of the system. I had to file for unemployment in May of 2022 and I thought I was going to have a heart attack just trying to get registered to use the online system. What a mess. A person can get logged on one week and then the next week, thee system can't "authorize" them. That goes on for days/weeks at a time. I even filed an appeal because it took over a month and there was no movement in my account towards receiving any money. I was told that the people in charge of hearing the appeals check in every now and then. Just within the last 2 weeks, I was told my tax document was available. I could not log back into my account. I sent the webmaster an email letting them know there was a problem and, once again, I got no response. How do people keep their jobs when they just keep ignoring their customers?
Because of obstacles beyond the control of appellants, the time to file an appeal should NOT be reduced. Justice cannot be done when the filing of appeals is impeded. Virginians are already navigating an unfriendly/confusing and broken employment system, a system where calls for assistance go unanswered, online services are frequently down and faxes don't make it through. Therefore, this voter and taxpayer is calling on you to vote no!
.. Vote NO to legislation that reduces the appeal rights of workers and fails to address the backlog of claims at the Virginia Employment Commission.
This bill should not pass for several reasons: 1. The mail has been unreliable to guarantee an unemployment compensation claimant sufficient notice if 15 days were the deadline. 2. A claimant needs sufficient time to consider seeking legal advice, doing their own research, and gathering evidence. Anyone familiar with a legal dispute knows that even 30 days can be a tight deadline. 3. Whatever the intent, the impact of the bill would be to wrongly deny qualified Virginia workers promised benefits. 4. The bill would reward unscrupulous employers who do not fully disclose the circumstances of the employment termination at the deputy examiner stage and who get lucky when a former employee misses the very short deadline, allowing the employer to lower the unemployment compensation taxes it pays. In Virginia, we should not give unscrupulous employers a competitive edge over honest employers.
HB1775 - Workers' compensation; anxiety disorder or depressive disorder incurred by law-enforcement officers.
HB 1775 is a critical bill for public safety to ensure that workers compensation coverage is available to address the anxiety and depression disorders that frequently plague law enforcement officers who are exposed to untreated trauma. Whatever costs are associated with funding this coverage offsets the costs law enforcement experiences when we lose officers from the profession or, even worse, have excessive force complaints against officers who are not coping well with their anxiety or depression. In the end, HB 1775 will reduce costs for the state and localities and preserve our good officers who need and deserve this assistance.