This past legislative session, the Virginia General Assembly set the stage to unleash opportunities for all Virginians by passing several key measures.
One of the most significant victories came in the form of a “regulatory sandbox” for health care authorized in the new budget. In simple terms, this sandbox creates space for regulators to temporarily freeze regulations and penalties. The process paves the way for private companies to develop or introduce innovative products and services in the health care arena where regulations may otherwise make that impossible. The result: better care at lower cost.
Remember that federal, state, and local governments waived over 800 regulations in the name of combating the COVID-19 pandemic and the sky didn’t fall. In fact, consumers are better off as a result, which makes you wonder why these regulations were in place to begin with. This was abundantly clear in the health care sector, where telehealth was employed to great success in areas that badly needed it.
Regulatory sandboxes are a relatively new concept. They were first introduced in the U.S. in Arizona in 2018, and since then 10 states have adopted some form of them — in the fintech, insurance, and legal realms in addition to health care. We are pleased that Virginia will now join the growing number of states to break down barriers to innovations that help people flourish and thrive.
Our state needs sustainable, long-term solutions in health care to empower patients, doctors, nurses, and health care innovators — not insurance companies or the government. This means rejecting the push for a government takeover of health care. Instead, let’s give Virginians a personal option that lets them choose the care that works best for them.
We also saw successes during the legislative session in strengthening support for telehealth, expanding scope of practice, and medical licensure and reciprocity. Each one of these reforms would increase access to providers and lower costs.
While we celebrate these victories, the session also had a handful of missed opportunities. Once again, lawmakers stopped short of permanently removing certificate of public need laws, which are unnecessary regulations that limit lifesaving health care access and innovation. Our hope is that in future sessions, lawmakers will repeal these laws, resulting in increased health care access, reduced medical costs, and improved health outcomes for patients.
We also saw little progress on expanding educational freedom across the Commonwealth for all Virginians, with lawmakers failing to pass legislation to create education savings accounts, or ESAs. These innovative accounts would enable teachers and families to work together to find a learning environment that empowers every child to succeed — regardless of family income or ZIP code.
On the education front, lawmakers must also continue to prioritize such effective approaches as intra-district open enrollment, which would expand opportunities by allowing students to attend any public school of their parents’ choice within their school district. Families would be empowered to find the school that is the right fit for their child, no matter where they live.
Lastly, one of the best ways to prepare students for careers is by fostering learning outside the classroom. That’s why Virginia lawmakers also must prioritize apprenticeships and career and technical education in our high schools. These supplementary educational opportunities are needed so students can find multiple pathways to their version of the American dream.
We’re making progress in Virginia. The commonwealth is leading the charge on key issues to expand freedom and broaden prosperity for all. We envision a future for our state with responsible spending, protection of taxpayers by reducing the tax burdens faced by families, expansion of educational freedom, and a reduction of burdensome regulations that destroy job creation. This year was a step forward.
JC Hernandez is state director of Americans for Prosperity-Virginia.