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.
THIS IS IT: BUDGET SHOWDOWN WEEK
The Senate is considering the House Republican passed $30.1 billion State Budget (House Bill 1192). Governor Wolf has already laid out a promise to veto in that the GOP plan does not provide a billion dollars more for education, does not impose a natural gas extraction tax, or increase the reach of the state sales tax to professional services. He did not specify whether he would veto the entire package or only selected parts, saying “We’ll see what they send me.” Waiting in the wings are other invitations to veto, liquor store privatization and pension reform. While the State Budget should be passed by the General Assembly in time to meet the constitutional deadline of June 30, a veto suggests a protracted set of difficult negotiations in July.
LOTS OF INSURANCE BILLS
Numerous insurance bills saw action last week.
- Sent to the Governor June 23 was Senate Bill 622 (Mensch-R-Montgomery/Bucks). It eliminates the requirement that the Legislative Budget & Finance Committee prepare a cost benefit study every two years on mental health insurance coverage.
- Senate Bill 861 (White-R-Indiana) clarifies insurance coverage where a person’s auto insurance will cover a loaner while the car is being repaired and that the dealer’s insurance will cover the car while in the garage’s custody up to the customer’s personal auto insurance policy limits. It passed the Senate by a 48-0 vote on June 17 and the House Insurance Committee June 27.
- Senate Bill 487 (McLihinney-R-Bucks) received House Insurance Committee approval June 27. It limits co-payments for insured medical services provided by physical therapists, chiropractors and occupational therapists.
- There was action on two bills establishing parity with out of pocket costs for oral and intravenous chemotherapy. House Bill 60 (Baker-R-Tioga) was reported out by the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee June 25. Also receiving a Senate Banking & Insurance Committee nod June 25 was Senate Bill 536 (Tomlinson-R-Bucks). The Senate acted June 28 to go with the Tomlinson legislation (49-0).
- Electronic delivery of annuities moved a step closer to enactment via a Senate Banking & Insurance Committee vote June 25. If approved by the full Senate, House Bill 972 (Pickett-R-Bradford) would go to the Governor for his signature.
- CHIP reauthorization (House Bill 857-Pickett-R-Bradford) was reported out by the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee June 25.
AUTO MINIMUMS BILL MOVES
By a 12-1 vote June 25, a bill raising auto insurance minimums was reported out by the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee and re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee June 26. Unlike its sister bill in the House Transportation Committee (House Bill 1258-Ellis-R-Butler) which doubles the minimums, Senate Bill 928 (White-R-Indiana) increases the minimum from $15,000 to $20,000 liability for one injury, from $30,000 to $40,000 for two or more injuries in one accident and collision from $5,000 to $15,000. Senator Pat Vance (R-Cumberland) was the sole dissenting committee vote. SB 928 was introduced June 24 and saw committee action the next day.
MORE INSURANCE WORK THIS WEEK
On June 29 the House Insurance Committee reported out House Bill 1403 (Quinn-R-Bucks) which requires that life insurance companies undertake a diligent search for beneficiaries using the Social Security Administration Death Master File or comparable resource. Although the PA Insurance Department has already secured this agreement from numbers of large life insurance companies, the Quinn bill mandates it for all. HB 1403 was re-referred to House Rules Committee, poising it for action by the full House.
Other committee work:
- After being reported out by the House Health Committee June 26, Senate Bill 3 (Folmer-R-Lebanon) – –legalization of medical cannabis –was re-referred to the House Rules Committee which could become a launching pad for full House action.
- Reported out by the Senate Finance Committee June 24 was Senate Bill 432 (Brooks-R-Mercer) to phase out the state’s Inheritance Tax. It eliminates the 4.5 percent lineal inheritance tax over a ten-year period ending in Fiscal Year 2025-26. Lineal heirs are grandparents, parents, children or children’s spouse. It was re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee June 26.
- Not acted on by the House Insurance Committee June 29 was House Bill 1064 (Evankovich-R-Allegheny/Westmoreland) provides special liability protection for emergency physicians and ER personnel by changing the standard of proof in judicial tort lawsuits.
MEDICAL MALPRACTICE LIMIT BILL READIED FOR HOUSE VOTE
Senate Bill 747 (Vogel-R-Beaver) limiting individual physician medical malpractice awards to 200 percent of the compensatory damages awarded (although with a minimum of $100,000 unless a lower verdict amount is returned by the trier of fact) was reported out by the House Judiciary Committee by a 17-8 vote June 28. Republican Tedd Nesbit (Butler/Mercer) joined seven Democrats in voting no. Three Democrats voted with the Republican majority to advance the bill. They were Judiciary Minority Chair Joe Petrarca (Westmoreland), Tim Briggs (Montgomery) and Tina Davis (Bucks). The Senate vote June 25 was 40-9 with ten Democrats crossing over to vote with Republicans and nine Democrats voting in the negative. SB 747 also requires that the Insurance Department complete a study on the amount of punitive damages reported to MCARE as being paid by health care providers since March 20, 2005. The Department would have a year to complete the study.
- Flood Insurance: Legislation eliminating an Insurance Department annual hard copy report on Flood Insurance coverage to the General Assembly is still waiting for consideration. House Bill 717 (Pickett-R-Bradford) passed the House in April and was referred to the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee April 17. Senate Bill 494 (Ward-R-Westmoreland) passed the Senate April 22 and has been in the House Appropriations Committee since June 8.
- Senate Bill 396 (Vance-R-Cumberland) reauthorizes the PA Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4). It passed the Senate and has been in the House Health Committee since June 11.
- Two EMS bills have been in the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee since June 12. They are House Bill 339 (Barrar-R-Delaware) allowing for insurer payment for EMS services when there is no transport to a hospital. House Bill 347 (O’Neill-R-Bucks) requires insurer payment to EMS directly.
- Awaiting the Governor’s signature is Senate Bill 397 (Alloway-R-Franklin) requiring bail bondsmen to have a PA insurance producer’s license. Last day for the Governor’s action is July 6.
SWIF REAUTHORIZATION KEY ISSUE
Senate Bill 655 (Browne-R-Lehigh) to reauthorize the State Workers’ Insurance Fund (SWIF) until June 30, 2019 was amended in the House Appropriations committee June 28 to serve as a vehicle governing state spending. Examples include the Tobacco Settlement monies and the Horse Race Development Fund. Included also is a provision stating that 7.5% of SWIF’s assets’ book value may be invested.