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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Please email email@example.com supplying both your name and e-mail address if you wish to be removed from or added to this list.
As many know, I underwent surgery for a brain hemorrhage and am recovering well. I want to thank everyone who sent get well wishes and prayers to aid in my recovery. Things like friendship and support have value beyond imagining.
Regards, Vince Phillips
HOME STRETCH FOR THIS SESSION
The 2013-14 session of the PA General Assembly is nearing an end with a flurry of last minute votes and activity for bills which will not pass but which want to be well-positioned in the next session of the General Assembly beginning in January 2015.
SESSION DAYS October November
House 6, 7, 8, 14, 15 12
Senate 6, 7, 8, 14, 15 12
NAVIGATOR BILL POISED FOR SENATE VOTE
Senate Bill 1268 (Eichelberger-R-Blair) was reported out of the Senate Appropriations Committee September 22, preparing it for a possible vote by the full Senate in October. The bill requires registration of Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (PPACA) unlicensed navigators and certified application counselors with the PA Insurance Department and additionally requires a criminal background check. Passage of this bill and its House counterpart, House Bill 1522 (Tobash-R-Schuylkill), is the top priority of the PA Association of Health Underwriters (PAHU). PAHU issued an action alert to members asking that they focus efforts on Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) firstname.lastname@example.org in bringing the bill to a vote.
BILLS SIGNED BY THE GOVERNOR into law September 24
- Senate Bill 990 (Browne-R-Lehigh) among other things requires acupuncturists to have one million dollars of liability per occurrence insurance coverage. It was signed into law as Act 134 of 2014.
- House Bill 993 (Murt-R-Montgomery) changes the name of the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) to the Department of Human Services. It was signed into law as Act 132 of 2014 by Governor Corbett.
BILLS TO THE HOUSE
- Senate Bill 1182 (Folmer-R-Lebanon) was approved by the PA Senate 43-7 on September 24 and sent to the House for concurrence. The measure provides a means where a health care provider could authorize use of cannabis (Marijuana) for medical purposes. Users would need a cannabis access card from the Health Department as well as a prescription from a licensed physician. NOTE: Growing cannabis for any purpose and smoking cannabis remain illegal.
- House Bill 241 (Petri-R-Bucks) was passed by the Senate 50-0 on September 22 and sent to the House. It expands the definition of “fire department vehicle” to include vehicles owned or leased by a fire relief association and used by either paid or volunteer fire companies. Included are private vehicles owned by a police chief or assistant chief, a fire chief/assistant chief, ambulance corps commander/assistant, river rescue commander/assistant, and others.
- Senate Bill 1415 (Eichelberger-R-Blair) enables insurance companies to offer commercial real estate holdings as an asset for collateral. Its’ intent is to enable PA insurance companies to receive better terms when borrowing from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh. The sponsorship memo says that it follows the NAIC model and is supported by American Council of Life Insurers and PA insurers such as Donegal. It was passed by the Senate 50-0 and sent to the House September 24
- Passing the Senate 50-0 September 24 was Senate Bill 1432 (McIlhinney-R-Bucks) which prohibits the imposition of deductible or co-payments for mastectomies. It also:
– Mandates coverage for inpatient care for as long as the physician deems appropriate before safe discharge
– Provides coverage for a home health care visit within 48 hours after discharge when the discharge occurs within 48 hours following admission for the mastectomy (if the physician feels that this is necessary).
– Prohibits imposition of multiple co-payments for licensed physical therapy, chiropractic and occupational therapy services.
PROPERTY TAX REFORM LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
Senate Bill 76 (Argall-R-Schuylkill) saw some late session activity with the September 16 movement of the bill through the Senate Finance Committee. SB 76 seeks to eliminate school district property taxes in exchange for increased Personal Income Taxes to 4.34% (now at 3.07%), an increase in the state sales tax to seven percent (now 6%), and sales taxes being imposed on numerous now exempt categories. Numerous business groups (Chambers, retailers, accountants, NFIB, and manufacturers) have lined up in opposition but two powerful groups, the PA Farm Bureau and the PA Association of Realtors support the bill. Despite the Senate Finance Committee vote, prospects for ultimate passage of SB 76 are dim because it must still be voted on by both Senate and House before October 15. Vote in the Senate Finance Committee was 6-5 with three Republicans, Senators Pat Vance (Cumberland) Scott Hutchinson (Venango) and Stewart Greenleaf (Montgomery) voting no.
On the House side, Senate Bill 491 (Folmer-R-Lebanon) was amended by the House Finance Committee September 22 to include major school property tax reforms using language from House Bill 1189 (Grove-R-York) — a far cry from the bill’s original intent to allow farmers to use a simpler method for local tax filing. Adding those major provisions pretty much eliminates any real chance of final action during this session.
LOBBYING TAX BEATEN BACK
On September 18, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) disapproved a proposal from the PA Department of State to double the lobbying registration fee from $200 to $400 every legislative session paid by groups seeking to influence legislation. Opponents such as PA Association for Government Relations, an organization of lobbyists, and PHILLIPS ASSOCIATES submitted testimony stating that doubling the tax would mean that smaller organizations simply could not afford the additional expense and would either stop lobbying (detrimental to democracy) or simply lobbying without registering (hurting transparency).
NEXT UP IN THE HOUSE
- Reauthorization of PA Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4). Its authorization expired June 30 but Governor Corbett issued an executive order giving PHC4 a lifeline until House concurrence of Senate Bill 1267 (Vance-R-Cumberland) can occur.
- Personal Lines legislation allowing for a transfer of coverage between affiliated insurers without the consumer having to go through a formal cancellation first (Senate Bills 1356 and 1357 (Corman-R-Centre) passed the Senate 49-0 September 16 and was reported out of the House Insurance Committee.
PERSONAL NOTE…Vince Phillips was named to serve on two committees of the PA Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (PAMIC) — Education and Government Affairs.