What We're Watching
Last updated July 29, 2021
Virginia Special Session starts August 2nd
The Virginia General Assembly will convene in Richmond on Aug. 2 for a special session to allocate more than $4.3 billion in federal relief funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) enacted by Congress earlier this year. The Governor recently announced several of his top priorities (here and here) for the funds. On July 27th, he announced plans to allocate funds to increase access to clean water. We continue to watch this process as additional priorities are announced for impacts on public health.
Prepping for 2022 Legislative Session
Virginia’s regularly scheduled legislative session is January 12, 2022 – March 12, 2022. This is considered a long session (even years session is 60 days, odd years session is 30 days) and will in part focus on a new state budget. Catalyst is refining our priorities for this session, but are planning on bringing forward these changes—
- Increase Reimbursement Rates: Catalyst is partnering with the Virginia Dental Association to advocate for increased Medicaid reimbursement rates for dentists to more closely reflect private insurance reimbursement rates. The Medicaid dental program has not raised rates in over sixteen years.
- Support Dental Hygienists in Remote Settings: Catalyst has partnered with the Virginia Dental Association and Virginia Dental Hygienists’ Association to draft new code language that clarifies the role and scope of remote supervision dental hygienists. The updated language will clarify questions about teledentistry, liability, and follow-up appointments. This new language will be submitted to be codified.
Federal Policy Watch
Catalyst is watching two main federal infrastructure policy discussions—
- American Jobs Plan- Water Infrastructure: Allocating significant funds to infrastructure is much needed to support and improve the nation’s crumbling water infrastructure. As water access and quality continue to be a leading concern in this country, Catalyst is watching to anticipate the impact this will have on the commonwealth and the work of the Water Equity Taskforce. As it stands, the bipartisan infrastructure bill is still being written, it’s anticipated to be completed early this week. Congress hopes to vote on and pass this bill within the next two weeks before they leave for August recess. The bill will need bipartisan support from 60 Senators to move forward.
- Dental in Medicare: The Senate has proposed a $3.5 trillion infrastructure package that includes expanding Medicare (the Federal health insurance program for folks 65+) to cover dental services, vision, and hearing coverage. The Senate plans to vote on this before they recess in August. Nearly 1.5 million Virginians are enrolled in Medicare, many of whom face significant cost barriers to access dental care. In its current form, Medicare recipients will only be eligible for preventive services; bill sponsors have indicated that they intend to support the addition of other dental services incrementally. Like the addition of a Medicaid dental benefit for adults in the commonwealth, this is a critical next step to ensuring all Virginians have access to comprehensive health care. You can learn more about the new legislation here, and find additional resources and information from our friends at Families USA.
- Medicaid Dental Benefit Act: A federal bill is being introduced in Congress that would make adult dental services a mandatory coverage for all adults on Medicaid. Currently, each state makes this determination. Virginia passed an adult dental benefit in 2020, but is one of only 20 states with extensive dental benefit coverage for adults; 30 states have little to no coverage for adults on Medicaid. This new bill is not tied to the ongoing budget reconciliation package.