2020-8-19

Virginia Takes Historic Steps to Secure a Clean Energy Future

Governor Northam ceremonially signs landmark Virginia Clean Economy Act, legislation to drive new investment in solar, energy storage

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today celebrated Virginia’s once-in-a-generation progress on clean energy by ceremonially signing historic legislation that accelerates the Commonwealth’s transition to a carbon-free future. The Governor signed the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which establishes bold energy efficiency standards and provides a pathway for new investments in solar, onshore wind, offshore wind, and energy storage. Additional legislation signed by the Governor advances shared solar and energy storage programs, and dramatically transforms the rooftop solar market.

“We are at a pivotal moment to secure an affordable, clean energy future in Virginia,” said Governor Northam. “Together, these pieces of legislation put the Commonwealth in position to meet the urgency of the climate crisis, and lead the transition to renewable energy in a way that captures the economic, environmental, and health benefits for all Virginians. And these bills also send a strong, clear message about the broader impacts of pollution that must be considered when choosing our energy resources.”

For the first time in the Commonwealth, the Virginia Clean Economy Act establishes a mandatory renewable portfolio standard to achieve 30 percent renewable energy by 2030, a mandatory energy efficiency resource standard, and the path to a carbon-free electric grid by 2045. The bill also declares that 16,100 megawatts of solar and onshore wind, 5,200 megawatts of offshore wind, and 2,700 megawatts of energy storage are in the public interest. This provides a pathway for clean energy resources to be constructed, while ensuring that the investments are made in a cost-effective way. The Virginia Clean Economy Act protects customers with a program that helps reduce electricity bills and brings energy efficiency savings to low-income households.

The Governor also ceremonially signed legislation directing the State Corporation Commission to determine when electric utilities should retire coal-fired or natural gas-fired electric generation facilities, and how utility customers should pay for this transition.

Governor Northam signed additional legislation to support new investments in solar energy, including the Solar Freedom bill, which will help grow the rooftop solar market in the Commonwealth. Another bill he signed establishes a shared solar program, allowing communities to receive credit for the solar energy they generate through a subscriber system. With a minimum requirement of 30 percent low-income customers, this program will enable Virginians to reap the benefits of generating solar energy on their homes. The Governor also signed a legislation that will build an energy storage market in Virginia.

Learn more about the clean energy legislation passed during the 2020 General Assembly session here.

Watch the video of today’s bill signing ceremony here.

McEachin, Davis, Watson Coleman Introduce Legislation to Protect Patients from Increased Prescription Drug Costs During COVID-19 Pandemic

Legislation Would Delay Implementation of 2021 NBPP

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04), Congressman Rodney Davis (IL-13), and Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) introduced a bipartisan bill to protect patients from increased out-of-pocket prescription drug costs during the COVID-19 pandemic. H.R. 7647, the Preserving Patient Savings on Drug Costs Act, stops insurers from instituting costly copay accumulator programs by delaying the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) 2021 Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameter (NBPP) rule from going into effect until a year after the COVID-19 public health emergency has lifted.

“Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle agree: there shouldn’t be additional barriers to access lifesaving and much-needed prescription drugs, especially in the middle of a pandemic,” said Congressman McEachin. “As households across the country continue to navigate the COVID-19 crisis, we must do more to support those who depend on copay assistance to offset soaring prices at the pharmacy counter and ensure prescriptions remain accessible to all patients who need them.”

“Making prescription drugs more affordable for everyone is one of my top priorities and a bipartisan goal shared by our fellow lawmakers in Congress,” said Rep. Davis. “Patients should not face even more financial barriers to receiving the drugs they need to stay healthy, especially during this pandemic, and particularly for those with chronic conditions who are vulnerable to COVID-19. I’m proud to join Congressman McEachin and Congresswoman Watson Coleman in introducing this bipartisan legislation so we can provide financial relief and promote the health of patients while this pandemic continues.”

“In a time where the cost of lifesaving and critical medications are a challenge for so many families, we can’t afford to remove one way that consumers can keep their costs down,” said Rep. Watson Coleman. “We’re in the midst of a pandemic, with families who’ve lost work and are struggling just to make ends meet. Now is not the time to add new healthcare costs to their plates, and I’m proud to work alongside my colleagues to make sure we fix this.”

Historically, when a patient has utilized cost-sharing assistance at the pharmacy counter, the amount has counted towards a patient’s deductible and maximum out-of-pocket limit, thereby lowering patient’s overall out-of-pocket spending. In June, HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar, II finalized the 2021 NBPP rule, reversing that policy and allowing health insurers to omit certain prescription drug coupons from counting toward a patient’s deductible and out-of-pocket limit. The AIDS Institute recently released a report showing that health plans on the individual market in 33 states and the District of Columbia have widespread use of copay accumulators, reinforcing that the proposed changes would lead to increased financial burdens on patients across the United States.

The Preserving Patients Savings on Drug Costs Act would delay the 2021 NBPP rule until a year after the COVID-19 health emergency is lifted, allowing more time for patient input and discussion on the negative impact of copay accumulator programs.“Now is not the time to allow insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers to make it harder for people to get the medications they need to stay healthy.

The COVID-19 pandemic is already increasing financial stress for millions; people living with and at risk of HIV, hepatitis and other chronic conditions cannot face additional cost burdens for accessing their medications,” says Rachel Klein, Deputy Director of The AIDS Institute. “This legislation is extremely important to ensure that patients who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 are not put at even greater risk to their health or their financial security.”

The legislation builds on a March letter led by Reps. McEachin, Davis, Watson Coleman and Joyce signed by more than 70 Members of Congress to Secretary Azar expressing strong opposition to the 2021 NBPP rule.

“We thank Reps. McEachin and Davis for their continued leadership on this issue. They continue to be a strong voice for patients living with chronic conditions in Congress, and we encourage other Members of Congress to sign on as cosponsors of this legislation,” says Michael Ruppal, Executive Director of The AIDS Institute. 

Letter to the Editor from W. Scott Burnette, CEO of VCU Community Memorial Health

 

I want to take this opportunity to let this community know how proud they should be of the health care team at Community Memorial Hospital as they have faced the challenge of dealing with COVID-19.  Over the last five plus months, the CMH team has shown true dedication to caring for patients in what could easily be called the worst of times, other than that of a war zone perhaps.  However, for all intents and purposes, they have been engaged in a war with an invisible, yet very deadly disease.  Highly infectious patients may not even display any symptoms of illness, yet can transmit the virus simply by being close to others and not wearing a mask.  The act of speaking, a sneeze or a simple cough can send droplets containing the virus that can then be absorbed through the mouth, nose or eyes of another person.

Since COVID-19 arrived, the CMH team transformed a 70 bed community hospital into a multi-hospital complex capable of housing at least 225 acute care and critical care patients.  This transition was accomplished within the first three weeks after the declaration of a state of emergency and was made possible by our ability to repurpose the original Community Memorial Hospital facility.  The amount of effort that was necessary to accomplish this was extraordinary and speaks volumes to the caliber of individuals who make up the CMH team.

We have had to change how we operate all of our clinics and our patient care services.  Our direct care teams have had to adapt to more strict levels of infection prevention protocols and daily put aside their fears of working in an environment that exists to treat all illnesses and injuries, but is also ready to face this new world-wide pandemic.  This requires an enormous amount of dedication and resilience and it is something that will carry them through these many months yet to come until an effective vaccine can be developed.  I also want to thank the community for adapting to our stricter visitor guidelines that are necessary to ensure everyone’s safety at our facilities.  I realize they have been an inconvenience; but, cooperation overall has been great and it is much appreciated. 

While we all seem to have adapted a bit more to this “world of COVID-19”, I wanted everyone to know how awesome the CMH team of health care professionals is and how proud I am to be their CEO.  I also want to thank this community for the many expressions of support and encouragement that have been offered to the staff at the hospital and all of our patient care divisions of CMH.  It means a lot for them to know that their willingness to face the daily risk to their personal health is appreciated.  This same dedication is demonstrated by our EMS partners in this region who have worked tirelessly to make sure all patients receive whatever care is needed and I want to thank them as well.

We are not out of the woods with COVID-19 yet, but the teams at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital and VCU Medical Center in Richmond stand ready to face this challenge as they have done so well throughout our histories.

No words are adequate to express my appreciation to the CMH team, so I will simply end this letter by saying “Thank You.”

Sincerely,

W. Scott Burnette

Chief Executive Officer

(Editor's Note: Your letters may not always reflect the views of Emporia News. Letters to the Editor may be sent to news@emporianews.com and must include your name. Letters that may be considered inflamitory in nature will not be published. Do not include profanity, racial ephitets, lewd, demeaning or disparaging comments. Letters may be edited for space, clarity and/or grammar.)

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