New Poll: Virginians Want More Transparency in State Health Insurance Regulatory Practices, Favor Stronger Insurance Laws to Protect Consumers

January 21, 2021

More Than Eight in 10 Virginians Support Changes to the Fair Business Practices Act to Ban Insurers from Unilaterally Changing Negotiated Contracts; Mason-Dixon Poll Results Arrive as New Altarum Institute Study Highlights Rising Insurance Costs

RICHMOND, VA – Results from a recent statewide poll by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy show a majority of Virginians want state government to provide more consumer-focused transparency regarding how health insurance companies operate in the Commonwealth, and they support changes to existing state law to limit insurers’ ability to unilaterally change contracts with health care providers. Among the poll findings:

  • 58 percent of Virginians say they are unaware of the existence of the State Corporation Commission’s Bureau of Insurance, which has regulatory authority over insurance companies;
  • 59 percent of Virginians think the Bureau of Insurance does not do enough to provide consumers with information about contesting adverse health insurance coverage decisions such as claim denials;
  • 92 percent support the concept of the state providing easy to access, public-facing information to provide more transparency about insurance industry profits, medical expenditures, administrative costs, and other metrics (states such as California offer this information to the public); and
  • 81 percent support changing a state law known as the Ethics and Fairness in Carrier Business Practices Act to prohibit health insurance plans from unilaterally changing contracts with doctors and hospitals, a practice that is currently allowed under the law.

“These poll numbers clearly show that Virginians expect a greater degree of accountability from health insurance companies as well as more support for families and business from state regulators at the Bureau of Insurance who are charged with monitoring the conduct of insurers operating in the Commonwealth,” said Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association President and CEO Sean T. Connaughton. “That includes strengthened consumer protections, enhanced public transparency, and legal limits on the ability of insurance companies to unilaterally change existing contracts with health care providers.”

There is legislation pending in the Virginia General Assembly – HB 2021 – to modify the Fair Business Practices Act to stop unilateral contract revisions by insurers and provide families and individuals with greater predictability of coverage. This legislation is supported by the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association.

The arrival of the Mason-Dixon poll coincides with the recent release of a statewide analysis of health care sector spending in the Commonwealth conducted by the Altarum Institute showing that while health care expenditures in Virginia are below the national average, insurance costs continue to rise. The report notes that since 2008 “per enrollee private insurance personal health care spending has increased by 42.7 percent, while single annual premiums have increased 61.3 percent, and family premiums have increased 66.4 percent. Deductibles and other cost sharing have also increased over this period.”

Those findings are consistent with an analysis done by the Kaiser Family Foundation showing that “health insurance costs for Americans who get their coverage through work continued a relentless march upward with average family premiums rising 4 percent . . . While health insurance costs rose a modest amount in 2020, as has been the trend in recent years, they soared 55 percent in the past decade – more than twice the pace of inflation and wages.”

The Altarum study also finds that overall per capita health care spending in Virginia is more than 7 percent lower than the national average, which is driven by lower per capita spending on hospital and physician services. Average hospital spending growth (3.6 percent) was the lowest among the major health care spending categories, according to the Altarum analysis, while prescription drug spending growth (7.3 percent) was the highest.

The poll was conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy from Dec. 14-18, 2020 and is based on live telephone interviews with 625 registered Virginia voters from across the Commonwealth.

About VHHA: The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association is an alliance of 110 hospitals and 26 health delivery systems that develops and advocates for sound health care policy in the Commonwealth. Its mission is to achieve excellence in both health care and health. Its vision is through the power of collaboration to be recognized as a driving force behind making Virginia the healthiest state in the nation. Connect with VHHA through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Julian Walker
Vice President of Communications
(804) 297-3193 office
(804) 304-7402 mobile