In Session: Week Three of the General Assembly

Friday, February 6th, 2015

We are in the thick of the General Assembly Session, still following plenty of Bills and making sure we are speaking up for low-income Virginians.  Some highlights from the last few days:

  • It seems that year after year, legislators want to impose some type of drug screening on those who participate in certain public benefits programs. Delegate Ben Cline introduced HB 2147 this Session, which would have required individuals who participate in VIEW – the work program attached to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), to undergo drug screening.  Thankfully, a House subcommittee laid the bill on the table yesterday, so it’s not likely to go any further this Session.

VPLC does not support this type of legislation.  For one, HB 2147 unfairly singles out one form of government assistance.  Businesses, students, and every member of the Virginia General Assembly receive a public benefit.  But HB 2147 would attach drug testing to the TANF program only.  In addition, the focus of the legislation is misplaced.  National studies consistently show that poor education, lack of transportation, health problems, and other difficulties are more common among TANF recipients than substance use or dependence.  If we are truly committed to helping families become self-sufficient, then our limited resources should be devoted to those areas.

Two other Bills of significance deal with the rights of consumers and especially older Virginians:

  • Suppose you are in a hospital bed in a hospital room for several days, eating hospital food, going for tests, being seen periodically by doctors and nurses.  You reasonably assume that you have been admitted to the hospital.  But when you leave the hospital several days later and go to a skilled nursing facility for therapy and rehabilitation, you discover that you were never actually admitted to the hospital.  And because you were not admitted to the hospital, your nursing home stay may not be covered by Medicare, leaving you with $100’s or even $1,000’s in out-of-pocket expenses.  SB 750–which would require hospitals to notify patients if they are in a hospital room for more than 24 hours but have not actually been admitted (under what is termed ‘observation status’)– cleared the Senate Wednesday on a 38-0 vote.  This Bill is a commonsense consumer protection matter that requires hospitals to notify patients if they have not been admitted, advises them that there may be negative financial repercussions to them for the hospital stay and especially for a subsequent nursing home stay, and lets them know who they can contact for more information and assistance.
  • A measure to address the problem of financial exploitation cleared the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services committee Friday.  SB 1460 would require Adult Protective Services to immediately refer to the State Police and local law enforcement when they receive a report of financial exploitation with losses suspected to be greater than $100,000.  This is an effort to bring law enforcement in to investigate earlier in the process, hopefully increasing the chances of recovering the victim’s lost assets.

Tuesday is Crossover.  This is the date after which each body of the Virginia General Assembly may only consider bills passed by the other house.  We’ll keep you posted on which Bills make it through Crossover.

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