The Virginia General Assembly formally adjourned on Monday, March 1, marking the end of legislative session and the unofficial start of the 2021 election season in Virginia. The General Assembly will reconvene twice in the spring for “veto sessions” to consider the Governor’s amendments to legislation passed in the 2021 regular and special sessions.

The 2021 General Assembly Session

Here is what you need to know:

While the meetings and lobbying looked different this year, MSV’s commitment to our members and advocacy in the legislature remained strong.

In an unprecedented year for Virginia’s physicians, residents, PAs, and medical students, the MSV Government Affairs and Policy team was honored to have the opportunity to support record-breaking member engagement and significant legislator outreach. Thank you to all MSV members for being so attentive to our e-news, legislative updates, and more on the issues facing the practice of medicine.

MSV’s Session Highlights

  • The MSV monitored almost 200 bills and budget amendments.
  • 125 MSV members attended our virtual lobby day, testified in a committee, or had group meetings with legislators
  • Over 9,732 messages were sent on priority bills through the MSV VoterVoice system.

Final Updates on the 2021 Issues

Support the Expansion of Telehealth and Telemedicine

Delegate Dawn Adams and Senator George Barker introduced legislation to expand the range of reimbursable telehealth services and encourage payers to cover audio-only telehealth services. With MSV’s support, the final bill included language on prescribing after establishing a patient relationship, money for remote patient monitoring for Medicaid, and expanded audio-only for telehealth services.

Delaying Autonomous Practice for NPs

Delegate Dawn Adams introduced legislation that reduced the number of years of full-time clinical experience a nurse practitioner (NP) needs to practice independently from 5 years to 2. Thanks to the phenomenal advocacy and lobbying efforts of MSV’s members, Delegate Adams introduced a sunset clause that made the change only applicable until 2022. This essentially duplicates what is already allowed under the COVID-19 emergency order, and gives the stakeholders time to evaluate a pending study from the Department of Health Professions next session.

Expansion of MSV’s Clinician Well Being Program, SafeHaven™

The Medical Society of Virginia continues to prioritize the mental health of Virginia’s front-line healthcare providers. In the 2021 session, the MSV was successful in expanding the SafeHaven™ program to even more clinicians including nurse practitioners, pharmacists, medical students, PA students, pharmacy students, and nursing students. These efforts were supported unanimously through the legislature and was signed last week by Governor Northam.

Independent Practice for CNMs

Delegate Dawn Adams introduced legislation to allow Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) to practice independently immediately upon graduating school and obtaining their license. The bill also granted CNMs full prescriptive authority. Despite united opposition from physician groups, the bill passed the Senate 20-19. The MSV has asked Governor Northam to amend the bill to add much needed patient protections.

Opposing Mandated Physician Litigation Assistance

Senator Scott Surovell introduced legislation that sought to require providers avail themselves to attorneys with a mandated schedule and fee structure. The MSV strongly opposed this legislation. Thanks to the strong advocacy efforts of our members, Senator Surovell eventually re-referred the legislation back to committee for fear it did not have the votes to pass.

Opposing Licensure for Naturopaths

Senator Chap Petersen and Delegate Sam Rasoul again introduced legislation this session to license Naturopaths under the Board of Medicine. This past summer, the MSV was involved in the workgroup and study conducted by the Virginia Department of Health Professions that ultimately voted against licensure. After conversation around the patient safety issues and failure to meet the requirements for licensure, both bills died in their respective committees.

Opposition to Removing the Medical Malpractice Cap

The MSV and a large coalition of healthcare stakeholders have been working for the past few months in opposition to SB 1107—a bill to repeal the medical malpractice cap. The bill was heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee and ultimately failed to report, but a few Senators were interested in continuing conversation throughout the coming year. This is a great win for the MSV, and the MSV along with the robust coalition of stakeholders will continue to monitor and engage on this issue.

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