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). Subscription information may be obtained by contacting PHILLIPS ASSOCIATES at 717/728-1217 FAX 717/232-7005 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 or added to this list.
NAVIGATOR BILL INTRODUCED
On March 7, Senator John Eichelberger (R-Blair) introduced Senate Bill 1268, a measure requiring that Navigators, certified application counselors and others doing Navigator-type work register with the PA Insurance Department. It joins House Bill 1522 (Tobash-R-Schuylkill) which had passed the House Health Committee earlier in the session. Although it is the Number One priority of the PA Association of Health Underwriters (PAHU), the legislation is not supported by the PA Insurance Department. A Senate Banking & Insurance Committee hearing April 2 will discuss this bill and Navigators generally. It appears that witnesses will include Commissioner Consedine, PAHU, a Navigator, and a nationally known privacy expect to address security vulnerabilities within the exchange marketing outreach system.
PRODUCER LICENSING INFORMATIONAL MEETING ON MARCH 11
On March 11, the House Insurance Committee convenes an informational meeting on House Bill 1494 (Watson-R-Bucks), legislation that would allow unlicensed clerks working for self-storage facilities to solicit and sell contents (property) coverage. HB 1494 does require owners to carry a limited license and to provide an unspecified amount of training to their employees about insurance. Critics such as Insurance Agents & Brokers (IA&B) and PAHU see this as a weakening of the integrity of producer licensing which would not provide regulatory oversight on insurance marketing as a consumer protection. Testifying will be the self-storage industry, PAHU, IA&B and the Insurance Department.
MEDICAID WAIVER UPDATE
This past week, the Corbett Administration indicated that it might be willing to compromise on its position that non-disabled Medicaid recipients be required to search for work. That is seen as one of the waiver provisions that HHS would question since the Federal agency has not yet provided such a waiver to any state. Other ideas such as an alternative to Medicaid expansion per the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (PPACA) putting people into the federally-facilitated exchange (marketplace) has received the OK from HHS in other states such as Arkansas. The Corbett plan would:
- Allow those under the PPACA threshold to enroll in the federally-facilitated exchange instead of Medicaid
- Consolidate numerous Medicaid plans into fewer standardized PPACA-compliant options
- Require a work search for non-disabled Medicaid recipients
Details: https://listserv.dpw.state.pa.us/scripts/wa.exe?A2=ind14&L=NEWS-RELEASES&P=16627 (press release);
HAL MOWERY PASSES AWAY
Former Republican PA legislator and licensed insurance producer Hal Mowery of Camp Hill passed away last week. In addition to serving as House member and state Senator, he also established a thriving insurance agency on the WestShore. Personal note from Vince Phillips: When I came to Harrisburg in 1989, Hal Mowery was the first lawmaker to take this fledgling lobbyist under his wing. He was a tremendous legislator and a true friend to the insurance industry.
- An anticipated primary contest between two House incumbent Philadelphia Democrats will be avoided due to Rep. Ed Nielson’s opting instead for the position of PhiladelphiaCity councilman in a special election. If elected, that will leave a vacancy for the remainder of his term this year requiring another special election, but it also clears the field for the other incumbent John Sabatina to win another term.
- March is the month when primary races are set. March 11 is the last date to circulate and file nomination petitions. March 12 is the last date to file nomination papers. March 26 is the last date in which candidates who filed nomination petitions may withdraw from the primary contest. This is also the period when challenges will be filed against primary candidates, alleging that their nominating petitions were inaccurate, incomplete or that signatures were suspect.
INSURANCE DEPARTMENT FINISHES BUDGET GAUNTLET
Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine has finished the last of two budget hearings. His February 27 presentation before the House Appropriations Committee first included a thank you to the General Assembly for passing legislation providing for a dedicated fund from which the Department could resource its operations. He went on to remind legislators that PA is the fifth largest insurance market in the US and 14th in the world. He recounted the “contractual complexity” in meeting the mission of consumer protection and announced that the NAIC reviewed PA’s insurer solvency tools and re-accredited the Commonwealth for another five years. Consedine also charted the “unprecedented changes in health insurance” and “a residual frustration with opening of the federal exchange”. Some of the questions from legislators:
- UPMC/Highmark: The Commissioner said that considerable behind the scenes work had resulted in arrangements for children (CHIP) and Medicaid recipients to not lose network status at year’s end.
- Cost of Mutual Companies’ financial exams: Consedine stressed the good working relationship between the Mutuals and the Department. He said that a 1/3 reduction in staff meant that PID had to outsource but wants to use state examiners to reduce insurer costs.
- Act 46 (cancer as a Workers’ Compensation covered disease for firefighters): Consedine said that there have not been as many claims as some expected and that the market will correct itself; that firefighters have not lost coverage since SWIF is an option.
- Highmark’s proposed merger with Blue Cross of Northeast PA (BCNEPA): He said that the Department is scrutinizing the proposal and will hold a hearing in northeast PA.
- MCARE: The Commissioner said that the medical malpractice market has recovered with 300 medical malpractice companies doing business in PA; that JUA’s filing was for a 9.4% rate decrease; that Governor Corbett wants the state to get out of the medical malpractice insurance market altogether when we are able to address the $1.6 billion in unfunded liability that MCARE now faces.
- State Exchange vs. Federal: Consedine said that the decision not to have a state-based exchange was due to HHS’ lack of answers as to specifics including additional PA taxpayer costs and the “limited flexibility” PA would have had under the new system.
In contrast, the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing’s questions focused on CHIP outreach, Governor Corbett’s Healthy PA request for HHS waiver, solvency of the Underground Storage Tank Indemnity Fund, and MCARE.
- Philly I-Day is set for April 9. Details: Insurance Society of Philadelphia 215-627-5306 email@example.com
- The 13th Annual Workers’ Compensation Conference will be held June 2-3 at the Hershey Lodge & Convention Center. With 32 workshops and given that this is the 100th anniversary for the PA Department of Labor & Industry; it should be a formidable affair. Details: 800-482-2383 or www.dli.state.pa.us then click on ‘Workers’ Compensation’
- March 15 is the last date for farmers to sign up for Crop Insurance. Details: 717-705-9511