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Realtors could get health insurance coverage if one state senator gets their way

AP Photo / John Bazemore, File

Once again, lawmakers will be talking about health insurance during the upcoming session. One bill would help Realtors get coverage.

Most people get health insurance through their employer or their spouse's employer. But that system has some people falling through the cracks -- among them people who sell real estate.

Senator George Barker is a Democrat from Fairfax County who has been fighting for years to help Realtors who don't have a traditional employment structure.

"And being independent contractors, they then cannot take advantage of health insurance plans that Realtor companies have," explains Barker. "What this will do is give them an opportunity to have their own plan through the Realtors' association."

The effort has bipartisan support in the House and in the Senate. When it was considered earlier this year, Republican Delegate Kathy Byron of Bedford County said she’s seen this problem first hand because her daughter is a Realtor.

"Tons of money out of pocket to pay for the cost of things that are a part of the co-pays and the out-of-pocket costs that people are enduring let alone the premiums that they have to deal with," Byron says.

Governor Ralph Northam vetoed a previous version of this bill, and House Democrats killed another recent version. Now Senator Barker says he's hoping a new Republican governor and a Republican House will finally help Realtors get the health insurance coverage they need.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.