LEG REG REVIEW 2015, 15th Issue May 18, 2015

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 xenobun@aol.com.  Please email jtrout2792@aol.com supplying both your name and e-mail address if you wish to be removed from or added to this list.

 

NAVIGATOR BILL REPORTED OUT OF HOUSE INSURANCE COMMITTEE

Senate Bill 293 (Eichelberger-R-Blair) received a unanimous vote by the House Insurance Committee on May 11. The legislation would require navigators, certified application counselors and other Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (PPACA) ‘assisters’ to register with the PA Insurance Department and undergo a criminal background check. SB 293 passed the Senate earlier this year.  An amendment authored by Minority Chair Tony DeLuca (D-Allegheny) allowing navigators et al to compare plans was also approved by the committee.  Movement of SB 293 was one of PAHU’s top priorities during the Association’s Day on the Hill April 21.  The General Assembly returns to Harrisburg June 1 and the House is expected to take up the legislation then.

 

PROPERTY TAX & BUDGET UPDATE

Confused by the Budget process so far?  Take comfort in that you are not alone.  First, last week the House Appropriations Committee reported out a State Budget bill.  This is NOT anything close to a final bill. Rather, it is the majority Republicans establishing a base point (based on the current Budget) which can be amended and negotiated.  Second, House Democratic Appropriations Chair Joe Markosek introduced the Governor’s Budget proposal via House Bills 1125 through House Bill 1140.  A key provision in what Governor Wolf would like is expansion of the sales tax to a wide range of professional services which include investment advice, employee benefits consulting, etc. as well as increasing the Personal Income Tax and rate of the state sales tax.  Under the Wolf plan, these monies would be used to reduce school property taxes and fund an increase of one billion dollars for education funding.

 

On May 13, the House voted 105-86 for House Bill 504, amended to include property tax language authored by Rep. Stan Saylor (R-York).  The vote was not necessarily along party lines since 40 Republicans voted no and 34 Democrats voted yes. (Eight House members did not vote.)  In contrast to Wolf, the Saylor approach increases the Personal Income Tax and rate of sales tax and dedicates it solely to reduce school property taxes.

 

CONFIRMATION PROGRESS

This last week, the PA Senate confirmed these Wolf Administration Cabinet nominees.

 

Major General James Joseph – State Adjutant General
Dennis Davin – Secretary of Community and Economic Development
Curtis Topper – Secretary of General Services
Leslie Richards – Secretary of Transportation.
Teresa Osborne – Secretary of Aging
Russell Redding – Secretary of Agriculture
Gary Tennis – Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs
Dr. Karen Murphy – Secretary of Health
Kathy Manderino – Secretary of Labor and Industry

 

As of May 15, a confirmation hearing had not been scheduled for Acting Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller.

 

 

LEGISLATIVE ACTION

  • Signed into law as Act 2 of 2015 by the Governor was House Bill 159 (Kampf-R-Chester) enabling medical malpractice reciprocal exchanges to convert to stock companies.
  • House Bill 972 (Pickett-R-Bradford) allowing for electronic delivery of life insurance and annuities passed the House May 6 by a 196-0 vote.  It is currently in the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee.
  • Reauthorizing the PA Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4) was taken up by the Senate Public Health & Welfare Committee and passed the committee without dissent.  Senate Bill 396 (Vance-R-Cumberland) was re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee May 12.  The House counterpart is House Bill 327 sponsored by Health Committee Minority Chair Flo Fabrizio (D-Erie).
  • On May 12, the Senate Aging & Youth Committee reported out House Bill 753 (Culver-R-Northumberland) by a unanimous vote.  The legislation establishes the PA Long-Term Care Council whose membership would include a licensed insurance professional with ten or more years experience in the long-term care insurance market.
  • Legalization of medical cannabis is one step closer to enactment thanks to a 40-7 May 12.PA Senate vote for Senate Bill 3 (Folmer-R-Lebanon).  It would allow for medical treatment using this drug per the sponsorship memo: “The emphasis of our efforts has focused on a strain of cannabis very high in Cannabidiols (CBD), a compound with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and very low in Tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.  Called “Charlotte’s Web,” this strain has been used to treat disorders with dramatic results that are rapid, non-intoxicating, and free of side effects for children using this medicine, as seen in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiShwotFJR8 “  SB 3 was referred to the House Health Committee May 14.

 

HOUSE COMMITTEE OKs EMS INSURANCE PAYMENT BILLS

The House Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee reported out two insurance bills May 13 regarding reimbursement to ambulance companies.  House Bill 347 (O’Neill-R-Bucks) requires that insurers reimburse EMS responding to a 911 call regardless as to whether or not the EMS is part of the insurer’s network.  The second bill is House Bill 339 (Barrar-R-Delaware) requiring reimbursement to the EMS even if there was no transport to a hospital.  According to the sponsorship memo, a rationale is that when a person declines transport to a hospital, the EMS will have provided on-site care which is not reimbursed.

 

WHAT SHOULD PENNSYLVANIA’S ESSENTIAL BENEFITS BE?

The PA Insurance Department issued a call for comment asking what essential (minimum) health benefits should be for small groups and individuals.  Part of the implementation of the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is the setting of these basic coverage levels.  Initially, PA opted to let HHS set the coverage minimums which is modeled in an Aetna plan no longer being sold in Pennsylvania.  For 2017, PA is taking a proactive approach by seeking comment.  Details for submission are found at https://www.insurance.pa.gov/portal/server.pt/community/insurance_pa_gov/4679 .  Because the Federal Government requires Pennsylvania’s recommended selection by July 1, 2015, the comment period will only remain open until June 9th with comments going to ra-in-press@pa.gov.

 

REGULATORY UPDATE

  • ARI Mutual Insurance Company submitted a plan of conversion to a stock property insurance company to the PA Insurance Department.
  • Medical Care Availability & Reduction of Error (MCARE) Fund announced to health care providers which paid the MCARE assessments from 2009-2012 and 2014 that the process for implementing a settlement agreement between MCARE and doctors/hospitals providing an assessment credit began April 1, 2015.  Questions: 717/231-6400
  • PA Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Association (JUA), the last resort for medical malpractice insurance, is not changing rates or rules for health care providers.  Questions: Eric Zhou gzhou@pa.gov

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