Henrico County VA
General Assembly

Patient First no longer accepting new Anthem patients


Virginia’s largest provider of primary and urgent health care, Patient First, has stopped accepting new patients insured by Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, citing Anthem’s “reduction in the reimbursement rates paid.”

The change, which took effect Feb. 2, also excludes all Anthem members with HealthKeepers Plus plans, even people who are existing patients at Patient First.

Ian Slinkman, the director of marketing and public relations at Patient First, said in an email, “The costs for delivering care increase year over year. Every one of the other Virginia payors with whom we contract understands this and provides reasonable trend increases that enable us to maintain our high levels of access and service.”

General Assembly Q&A


State legislators have returned to Richmond for a 60-day session of the General Assembly, during which they will work to craft a two-year budget and are expected to address a handful of prominent topics, including charter schools, higher education, health care, gun control and economic development, among others.

The Henrico Citizen invited each delegate and state senator whose district encompasses a portion of Henrico to provide their thoughts about the 2016 session. The answers of those who responded appear below.

O’Bannon’s bill would double fines for texting while driving


Next time Virginians text and drive, it might cost more than just a data plan.

Henrico Del. John O’Bannon (R-73rd District) has proposed a bill that would double the fines for texting while driving from $125 to $250 for a first offense and from $250 to $500 for a subsequent offense.

O’Bannon did not hesitate when asked why he decided to introduce the bill, HB 73.

Republicans decry Virginia as ‘Soviet Union of health care’


A group of Virginia lawmakers called for legislation to reform Virginia’s “monopolistic” and “inefficient” health care system. “With the Affordable Health Care act taking place several years ago, we’re hearing outcries from people about the high deductibles and the out-of-pocket costs,” Del. Kathy Byron, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Commerce and Labor, said during a press conference Wednesday.

“And although we have our hands tied as to being able to do much with the federal legislation, there are things we can do on a state level to have policy in place that creates competition and choice for the patients of Virginia that will ultimately result in lower costs for them,” said Byron, R-Lynchburg.

Mixed views about bills to increase alcohol sales


Virginia restaurant owners have mixed perspectives on legislation that would allow their establishments to sell more alcoholic beverages.

Two Republican lawmakers from Virginia Beach – Sen. Bill DeSteph and Del. Scott Taylor – have proposed changing the 20-year-old requirement that restaurants and caterers with liquor licenses limit their alcohol sales to 55 percent of their total revenue. This means that under the current law, a little less than half of all sales in restaurants must come from food. Wine and beer sales are not considered in this ratio.

Senate panel OKs bill legalizing fireworks sales


Despite concerns about fire safety, a Senate committee has recommended approval of a bill to legalize the sale of fireworks in Virginia.

The Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology voted 8-5 in favor of the legislation proposed by one of its members, Sen. Thomas Garrett, R-Hadensville. He said the bill could generate millions of dollars in sales taxes on a product he says is used illegally throughout the state anyway.

Bill seeks to cut carbon emissions, protect coastline


Two lawmakers have reached across the aisle to sponsor legislation that they hope will lower utility bills for consumers as well as reduce carbon emissions in order to protect Virginia’s vulnerable coastline.

Del. Ron Villanueva, R-Virginia Beach, has teamed up with Sen. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, to address the issue. Their bills would use emissions fees from power plants to invest in renewable energy projects in the coal regions of Southwest Virginia and annually pump about $125 million into flood protections and more than $80 million into energy efficiency programs for homeowners.

Go global, governor tells business leaders


Gov. Terry McAuliffe emphasized the importance of reaching out to global markets and expanding Virginia’s economy in a speech Wednesday to a group of business representatives graduating from the Virginia Leaders in Export Trade program in downtown Richmond.

“Ninety-five percent of the world’s customers live outside the United States of America, so we are going where the customers are,” McAuliffe said, echoing a theme from his State of the Commonwealth address last week. “With our great Virginia businesses, I know we can do business in any country on the globe.”

Students seek relief from college loans


Students from colleges and universities across Virginia protested at Capital Square this week, seeking help with college loans. And on Tuesday, a bipartisan trio of lawmakers touted their plans to address the issue.

On Sunday night, more than 60 members of the Virginia Student Power Network convened at Centenary United Methodist Church in downtown Richmond to discuss their strategies.

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