LEG REG REVIEW is a periodic newsletter produced by PHILLIPS ASSOCIATES, a professional lobbying and consultant firm located near the State Capitol. It contains news on the legislative and regulatory scene in Pennsylvania that may be of interest to the Insurance and Business Communities. It is a free member benefit for those who are members of the Pennsylvania Association of Health Underwriters (PAHU) or Manufacturers Association of South Central PA (MASCPA). Subscription information may be obtained by contacting PHILLIPS ASSOCIATES at 717/728-1217 FAX 717/728-1164 or e-mail to email@example.com. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org supplying both your name and e-mail address if you wish to be removed from this list.
HOUSE MOVES HOUSE BILL 1
On April 11, the PA House voted to pass the Fair Share Act (HB1 sponsored by Rep. Curt Schroder-R-Chester). By a 112-88 vote, the measure moved to the Senate where it will face competition from competing versions. First is the Fair Share Act advanced by Senator Jake Corman (R-Centre), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. (SB 2) Second is Senate Bill 500 (Greenleaf-R-Montgomery). SB 2 is the same as HB 1 while SB 500 is a lessened version. Stewart Greenleaf chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee where the bill was referred on April 13. Governor Corbett applauded the House vote, saying that “Pennsylvania should no longer remain as one of the few states where the legal system can hold a person, company, or local government agency liable for 100% of the damages, despite having had only a minor role in any incident resulting in a lawsuit.”
This legislation is a repeat of legislation passed twice by the General Assembly in recent years. It was stymied by the courts the first time and by a veto by former Governor Rendell the second. The intent is to change joint and several liability to comparative negligence where a person with small liability can end up paying the entire award. Small businesses in particular have complained about being dragged into cases where they have little if anything to do with the occurrence prompting the lawsuit. SB 2 and SB 500 were the subjects of an informational hearing conducted by the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 11.
SPRINKLER MANDATE REPEAL PASSES GENERAL ASSEMBLY
HB 377 (Everett-R-Lycoming), a bill to repeal a January 1 requirement that new houses have built-in sprinkler systems, has passed the General Assembly and was sent to the Governor on April 13. Despite a conclusive final vote by the House to concur with Senate amendments to HB 377, there was rancorous debate led by Democrats who attacked the Senate amendments as not being germane to the bill’s original purpose and for making it harder for Pennsylvania to promote green construction. The amendments expanded the purview of the legislation to make changes in the Uniform Construction Code more difficult by requiring a 2/3 vote of the state’s Review and Advisory Council as well as requiring public hearings.
WORKERS’ COMP BILL PASSED BY SENATE
The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 654 (Argall-R-Schuylkill) to classify certain types of cancer as a covered disease under the state’s Workers’ Compensation law for both volunteer and professional firefighters. Conditions include at least four year’s service as a firefighter and a link between duties as a firefighter showing direct exposure as well as a physical exam done prior to the claim which shows the individual to have been cancer free. Cancers include those listed as Group 1 Cancers by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
EXECUTIVE BRANCH ACTION
- Senate Banking & Insurance Committee moved Governor Corbett’s nominee Glen Moyer to head up the Banking Department to the full Senate for confirmation.
- Confirmed by the Senate were PA State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan, DGS Secretary Sheri Phillips, PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch and C. Alan Walker as Secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development.
HOUSE LABOR & INDUSTRY COMMITTEE MOVES TWO MUSTIO BILLS
The House Labor & Industry Committee moved two bills sponsored by Rep. Mark Mustio (R-Allegheny) with relevance to insurance.
- House Bill 1055 recognizes and sets up a system to regulate PEOs or Professional Employer Organizations. Traditionally, agent groups have been less than receptive to this approach because of possible Workers’ Compensation abuse and a reduction in customer service to a smaller business when a local insurance agent is replaced by insurance through the larger corporate entity, the PEO. Some of these concerns in Workers’ Compensation were muted by amendments from the insurers and by the fact that Mustio is himself a licensed agent. PAHU remains opposed to the bill.
- House Bill 440 permits Workers’ Compensation insurers and the State Workers’ Insurance Fund (SWIF) to insure sole proprietors and partners.
INSURANCE COMMITTEE HELD MCARE HEARINGS
The House Insurance Committee held two educational meetings on the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund (MCARE) last week. The hearings included testimony from the Insurance Federation of PA representing insurers and the PA Insurance Department. The second hearing featured presentations from medical groups including the Hospital and Health System of PA and the PA Medical Society. The last hearing will include testimony from PA Association for Justice (trial lawyers) and will take place on April 27.
- On April 20, the House Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on House Bill 896 (Ross-R-Chester) imposing an additional $50 fine for distracted driving which would include “use of any electronic, electrical, mechanical, personal grooming device, food, drink, book or printed material”.
- On April 27 the House Professional Licensure Committee will look at changes to PA’s public adjuster law via HB 424 sponsored by Rep. Robert Godshall (R-Montgomery). It makes a violation of the law a felony of the third degree with increased penalties governed by the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.
- The Patient Safety Authority will meet April 26 in Harrisburg. Details: 717/346-0469
LABOR DEPARTMENT ISSUES VIEWS ON ESSENTIAL MEDICAL BENEFITS
The U.S. Department of Labor issued a report on the essential medical benefits mandated by the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (PPACA) which governs plans offered in the new Health Insurance Exchanges and in the individual and small group markets. While HHS is the lead agency, it sought Labor’s views as well as findings of HHS’ own Institute of Medicine. HHS announced April 15 that it will seek public comments this fall. Read the report: http://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/smb_health.htm
- The Department of Public Welfare has issued a notice specifying the income levels for the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines as it relates to eligibility to PA programs (based on HHS 1/20/11). A family of four at 100% makes $22,350; at 133% (the amount specified in PPACA for expansion of Medicaid eligibility in 2014), a family of has $29,726 in annual income.
- Shared Services Insurance Group, a domestic stock casualty company, is seeking to surrender its Certificate of Authority to do business in the Commonwealth.
- April is Financial Education Month per a proclamation issued by Governor Tom Corbett on April 14. His proclamation notes that PA’s Office of Financial Education had received numerous awards for its work in promoting financial literacy and that the Office’s work is especially important today with the economy and with the need for consumers to better understand the new credit rules that have come from Washington. Details: www.moneysbestfriend.com