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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Please email email@example.com supplying both your name and e-mail address if you wish to be removed from this list.
PA GENERAL ASSEMBLY RETURNS FOR SHORT FALL SESSION
The Pennsylvania House returns to Harrisburg this week and the Senate next week for a short fall session. The chambers see things differently with the Senate saying that it does not plan to come back after the November election for a lame duck session. The House has placed November 8, 9, 10, 15, 16 on its calendar.
On the radar screen are a number of non-insurance issues such as:
- Creation of a legislative fiscal office
- Taxing natural gas extraction (Marcellus Shale)
- Reconciling Senate and House disputes on banning texting while driving
- Funding for transportation projects
Three insurance bills may see attention. Text is available at www.legis.state.pa.us.
- SB 1460 (Hughes-D-Phila.) to increase minimum auto insurance requirements; referred to Senate Banking & Insurance Committee
- HB 2106 (R. Taylor-D-Montgomery) establishes a state medical information exchange (not to be confused with the Exchanges created by the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act). It would be a data base of medical records to hopefully reduce doctor preventive medicine duplication of earlier tests. Funding for the new exchange would come from Stimulus funding but the long-term funding picture is cloudy. HB 2106 is scheduled for a House vote this week.
- HB 2455 (Eachus-D-Luzerne) would reauthorize the Community Reinvestment Agreement (CRA) between the Blues and the Commonwealth until 2014 and require most of the Blues’ allocation to reduce the adultBasic waiting list. This is a significant budget issue because the existing CRA expires December 31, 2010 and the Budget for FY 2010-11 assumes CRA funding for adultBasic through June 30.
PREMIUM INCREASES ESTIMATES LOWBALLED BY HHS
HHS has addressed a fundamental claim of the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act in trying to refute skeptics … will it increase health insurance premiums? In a September 9 letter from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius to America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the trade group representing for-profit carriers, HHS blamed insurers that “falsely blame insurance premium increases for 2011 on patient protections in the Affordable Care Act”. The Secretary claimed that premium increases resulting from the wave of benefit changes for plan years after September 23 will be minimal, between one and two percent. She cited research done by some including Highmark estimating the legislation’s impact at between 1.14 to two percent to support her claim. Sibelius also warned AHIP members that HHS “would not stand idly by as insurers blame their premium hikes and increased profits on the requirement that they provide consumers with basic protections.”
INSURANCE COMMITTEES PRESENT FALL MEETING SCHEDULE
Both House and Senate committees are convening September meetings.
The House Insurance Committee plans two hearings. First up is a September 14 hearing on HB 2188 (Frankel-D-Allegheny) on disclosures for viatical settlements. The second hearing will be held September 24 in Plum, PA on HB 2640 (Markosek-D-Westmoreland). This bill attempts to address the belief that certain life insurance/annuity products are presented inappropriately by insurance agents who misrepresent their credentials as well as the product itself.
On the Senate side, the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee plans a September 21 hearing on House Bill 2246 (Tallman-R-York/Adams). This bill stakes out new legal ground for trial lawyers by permitting a discussion of economic damages to be included in closing arguments. The bill was approved by the Senate Transportation Committee.
HHS ISSUES MINI-MED WAIVER GUIDANCE
The Department of Health and Human Services issued guidance regarding Limited Benefit plans known as Mini-Meds. This was an area of interest given uncertainties as to how these plans would be regulated and how or if they would meet the elimination of lifetime benefits and ‘essential’ benefits contained within the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act. The HHS guidance governs how and when a waiver request from the Mini-Med plans may be submitted. The request for waiver is only for plan years between September 23, 2010 and September 23, 2011 and may only include those plans operating as of 9/23/10. Link follows below:
OTHER HHS LAW IMPLEMENTATION NEWS
- Rural hospitals have a new grant program with $20 million going to help them convert from paper to electronic health records. (Details: www.hhs.gov September 10, 2010)
- IRS released a draft form for small firms and non-profits to claim the health insurance premium tax credit. An Insurance Journal article describing this can be found at:
IRS GUIDANCE ON 2011 RESTRICTIONS ON OTC RESTRICTIONS FOR FSAs, HSAs and HRA On September 3, the Internal Revenue Service issued Notice 2010-59 and Revenue Ruling 2010-23, which provide guidance reflecting the PPACA’s statutory changes effective January 1, 2011 with respect to medicine and drug reimbursements under FSAs, HSAs and HRAs. The cost of an over-the-counter medicine or drug cannot be reimbursed from the account unless a prescription is obtained but does not affect insulin, even if purchased without a prescription, or other health care expenses such as medical devices, eyeglasses, contact lenses, co-pays and deductibles. The new standard applies only to purchases made on or after January 1, 2011, so claims for medicines or drugs purchased without a prescription in 2010 can still be reimbursed in 2011, if allowed by the employer’s plan. A similar rule goes into effect on January 1 for Archer Medical Savings Accounts (Archer MSAs). The IRS has also posted a questions and answers section on its website concerning these provisions. (This article adapted from NAHU News report.)
PHILLIPS ASSOCIATES ANNOUNCES September Health Update CE
As a supplement to three of the SPARKS Clinics in September (www.sparksclub.com) PHILLIPS ASSOCIATES is offering one-credit refresher courses to help P/C agents better understand the new health law and the compliance responsibilities their business clients might face. These afternoon sessions will take place in these SPARKS locations: Altoona September 15; Bethlehem September 20 and Williamsport September 21. Details: 717/732-7255