Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) (Courtesy of Patrick Hope)

Dels. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) and Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) said at a press conference in Richmond that the exchanges would allow Virginians to compare and choose from different plans.

“By establishing a state-run exchange, the Commonwealth will have complete control over its program,” the Democratic caucus said in written statement. “It will prevent the federal government from stepping in and dictating the plan’s design.”

Hope and McClellan said their bill is modeled after the recommendations of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) Virginia Health Reform Initiative, a bipartisan panel formed to implement federal health care reform in the state. They noted that Del. Terry Kilgore (R-Scott) said in December that he also would introduce a bill establishing an insurance exchange.

Democrats cast the legislation as something lawmakers could embrace regardless of their stance on the Affordable Care Act. If the law withstands a Supreme Court challenge, Democrats argued, Virginia should have a home-grown plan ready so the federal government doesn’t impose one.

“House Democrats are proposing to create a competitive marketplace where small businesses and individuals can collectively pool their resources to purchase health insurance at lower costs,” said Del. David Toscano of Charlottesville. “Reducing health insurance premiums for small businesses and individuals will provide a jolt to Virginia’s economy. ... That is something upon which Democrats and Republicans can agree.”