The 2021 legislative session is rapidly approaching! The General Assembly will convene on January 13 and it will be much different than usual. The House of Delegates will be 100% virtual and never meet in person.
The Senate will meet at the Science Museum of Virginia, as they did during the recent Special Session. However, no one from the public is allowed there or at the Pocahontas building. All public testimony and meetings with legislators will be conducted virtually.
Typically, the legislative session is 45 days in odd-numbered years. However, this always requires a procedural vote by two thirds of the legislative body. House and Senate Republicans have announced they will not support more than 30 days and will vote against any extension. We could potentially be looking at a very short, 30-day session.
Due to the length and recent Special Session, they have also implemented strict bill limits for legislators. Senators may only introduce up to 12 bills and Delegates only get seven. To give you an idea of how challenging this will be, some legislators typically introduce 20-30 bills (some even more). As a result, legislators are choosing their bills very carefully and avoiding controversial issues. Leadership has advised legislators to save complex and controversial items for 2022.
Lastly, 2021 is a major election year in Virginia. The statewide offices of Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General, and all 100 seats in the House of Delegates, will be on the ballot. Election year politics often spill over in the legislative session.
So, while this session will certainly be different, we will continue to advocate for our members and patients. Here is a preview of just some of the issues we know we’ll be working on:
- Medical Malpractice; In 2012, Virginia passed a law capping the medical malpractice monetary reward for 20 years. This was an agreement between the Medical Society of Virginia and the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association. Senator Bill Stanley has introduced legislation to undo that cap. VSA will oppose this bill and work with our fellow physicians to advocate against its passage.
- Independent Practice for Nurse Practitioners. Virginia’s current law allows a NP to practice independently after five years of clinical experience. Legislation has been introduced that would change it from five years to two years. Governor Northam issued an Executive Order at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic changing it to two years. It is set to expire when we are no longer in a state of emergency. This legislation would permanently change it to two years. VSA opposes this and will advocate against it. This excludes Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists and would not affect them.
- Telemedicine. During the COVID pandemic, many patients have relied on telemedicine to receive care. We are working with the Medical Society of Virginia to pass legislation that would make it easier for providers to be reimbursed for audio-only services.
- Medicaid Reimbursements. We were thrilled that the budget passed during the Special Session included funding to increase the anesthesiology Medicaid reimbursement to 70% of Medicare. We will work to protect that funding and ensure it remains in the budget.
As always, we will keep you updated on legislative matters and let you know how you can help!