2021 Virginia State Legislative Session Summary

Victory in the fight against cancer requires bold new public policies that promote cancer prevention, early detection of cancer, and expand access to quality, affordable health care. Lawmakers make many decisions that impact the lives of citizens of the Commonwealth touched by cancer and their leadership is vital to defeating this disease. In 2021, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) worked with the Virginia General Assembly, the Governor’s office, and the Virginia Department of Health in support of the following priorities:

Reducing the Toll of Tobacco

Tobacco Retail Licensing (TRL):  ACSCAN’s TRL bill would require all retailers of tobacco and nicotine (e-cigarette) products to obtain a Tobacco Retail License and renew it annually. It also mandates developing a list of all tobacco and nicotine retailers in the state to streamline enforcement efforts and provide needed data on who is selling tobacco and nicotine products at retail. It will create civil monetary penalties and outline license suspension and revocation provisions for selling without a license and for violations of MLSA laws by licensees. It establishes a dedicated Tobacco Retail Administration Sub-fund into which all fines and fees will be deposited and used for License administration and enforcement. It prohibits sales of tobacco and nicotine products from vending machines, repeals the exemption for members of the military who are under 21 to align with the federal Tobacco 21 law, and repeals penalties to youth who purchase, use, or possess of tobacco and nicotine (“PUP” penalties).

The legislation passed out of subcommittee (the first time in memory for a tobacco bill in Virginia) and was sent to Appropriations. Despite efforts by the industry to kill the bill, the Chairman of Appropriations created a task force to iron out differences. ACSCAN, Tobacco 21, the Virginia Department of Health along with the tobacco industry will make up the task force. All parties now agree that with federal fines for underage sales coming in two years it is no longer a question of should Virginia have a TRL program but what the program should look like. Given the history of Virginia and tobacco this is an unprecedented step in the right direction.


Ensuring Access to Quality Care

Association Healthcare Plans (AHP): For the past three sessions, ACS CAN has worked to defeat a myriad of legislative proposals that would have weakened Virginia’s private health insurance market. These included; association healthcare plans, catastrophic healthcare plans, and short-term limited duration healthcare plans. For three sessions, patient advocacy groups have had to rely on “11th hour” vetoes by the governor to defeat these measures. In 2021, for the first time, ACSCAN along with our healthcare coalition partners were able to defeat both AHP bills in committee. These two bills were aggressively backed by the health insurance industry and professional associations. Past sponsors of the catastrophic and short-term limited duration proposals decided not to reintroduce their bills in 2021.

Reinsurance – ACSCAN backed the successful 2021 campaign that will establish a reinsurance program for Virginia’s individual marketplace. Reinsurance has been proven to reduce premiums as well as drawing new insurers to the marketplace which increases competition and choice for consumers.  Fourteen states have implemented reinsurance programs. A 2019 analysis found that in the first year, states saw premiums drop by an average of 16.9%[1]

For more information, contact: Brian Donohue, Virginia Government Relations Director, ACS CAN, [email protected] (202) 617-4502


The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network • www.fightcancer.org/Virginia

ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard.