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.
GENERAL ASSEMBLY SUSPENDS WORK FOR SUMMER
Given the measure of differences between Democratic Governor Tom Wolf and Republicans in the House and Senate over state spending and whether or not to levy additional taxes, neither House nor Senate will be in session for much of the summer. The House recessed July 22 and is slated to return August 25 unless recalled by the Speaker. The Senate concluded its work July 15 and will not return until September 21 unless recalled. Meanwhile Budget negotiations continue.
Something that may reduce the chance of quick reconciliation between the two sides is a concerted advertising campaign launched by America Works, an affiliate of the national Democratic Governors’ Association blasting the Republican Budget — House Bill 1192. The television spot is directed to constituents, saying that constituents should “Tell the legislature to get serious and pass a real budget.” There are also radio and mailer components of the media blitz.
Of course, counter ads opposing the Wolf Budget are sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, a limited government group although not at the same scale as the America Works outlay. PA Republicans are firing salvos too. For example, a chart taken from Rep. Brett Miller’s (R-Lancaster) July 24 constituent newsletter cites the National Association of State Budget Officers 2015 Fiscal Survey of the States comparing Governor Wolf’s proposed $4.6 billion in new taxes to the other 49 states’ combined proposed tax increases of $2.1 billion.
GOVERNOR’S CHIEF OF STAFF RESIGNS
Katie McGinty submitted her resignation as Chief of Staff to Governor Wolf, presumably to position herself as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the 2016 Senate race against incumbent Republican Senator Pat Toomey. Her primary opponent would be former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak. McGinty has both national and state credentials, having run for Governor (against Wolf) and having served as Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) under former Governor Rendell. Nationally, she served as environmental adviser to former Vice President Al Gore. In addition to Sestak, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski may yet resume his primary candidacy which he suspended because of a federal investigation into city finances.
ISENHOUR ASSUMES CHIEF OF STAFF POST
On July 23, Governor Wolf announced that he appointed his Secretary for Legislative Affairs Mary Isenhour to be the new Chief of Staff. Before assuming a major role in the Wolf Administration, Isenhour was a political consultant, Executive Director of the State Democratic Party, Executive Director of the PA House Democratic Campaign Committee, and State Director for Hillary Clinton for President in 2008.
TO THE GOVERNOR
The Governor has until July 31 to sign Senate Bill 487 (McIlhinney-R-Bucks) which was formally sent to him July 21. This legislation limits co-payments for insured medical services provided by physical therapists, chiropractors and occupational therapists.
HOUSE PASSES DEATH SEARCH BILL
On July 22, the PA House voted 175-0 to pass House Bill 1403 (Quinn-R-Bucks). This bill requires that life insurance companies establish procedures for doing a diligent search for beneficiaries. Currently negotiated company by company with the PA Insurance Department, HB 1403 specifies that all life insurers conduct a search via the Federal Government’s Death Master File. It was referred to the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee July 23.
- On July 21, the House Appropriations Committee reported out Senate Bill 494 (Ward-R-Westmoreland) to eliminate a mandated hard copy report by the Insurance Department on Flood Insurance statistics. If voted on by the full House, SB 494 would go to the Governor for his signature.
- A bill placing asbestos claims under the Fair Share Act was introduced by Rep. Warren Kampf (R-Chester) and referred to the House Judiciary Committee. House Bill 1428 addresses “double-dipping” where a claimant recovers twice for the same injury through manipulation of the litigation and bankruptcy trusts. It applies a standard of comparative negligence where there has to be a determination of how much a particular party is responsible for the injury before there can be an award. HB 1428 also requires disclosure to judge and jury by claimants of any other claims based on exposure to asbestos.
ON THE CALENDARS AWAITING THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY’S RETURN
Several insurance items are on the respective calendars of the House and Senate when they return. The House has two bills on second consideration (meaning that the House must consider them a third day before a final vote can be taken). They are:
- Senate Bill 747 (Vogel-R-Beaver) re a nursing home punitive damage cap and requiring a study of punitive damages. SB 747 was reported out by the House Judiciary Committee June 28 by a vote of 18 to 8. Republicans except for Rep. Tedd Nesbit (Butler/Mercer) voted for and Democrats except for Minority Chair Joe Petrarca (D-Westmoreland), Rep. Tim Briggs (D-Montgomery) and Rep. Pam Snyder (D-Fayette), voted no.
- Senate Bill 861 (White-R-Indiana) clarifies which insurance policy applies to a person’s car when it is being repaired and which insurance applies to a loaner when the car is in the shop. It was reported out by the House Insurance Committee June 27 with Democrats voting no.
The Senate has two bills on the calendar for third consideration. They are:
- House Bill 857 (Pickett-R-Bradford) to reauthorize CHIP
- House Bill 60 (Baker-R-Tioga) requiring that insurers pay both oral and intravenous chemotherapy consistently
STATE SEES MEDICAID GROWTH
On July 22, Governor Wolf announced that, since April 27, 150,000 additional Pennsylvanians signed up for Medicaid because of the expansion of Medicaid eligibility due to the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (PPACA). This is in addition to the 289,000 who enrolled under former Governor Corbett’s Healthy PA plan which also expanded eligibility but which focused on choosing a private sector option offered through the exchange. The Associated Press ran a July 20 story saying that the aggregate number of additional Medicaid enrollees is 423,000, slightly less than the Wolf figure of 439,000. The AP also noted that this represented almost ¾ of the 600,000 people potentially eligible for Medicaid because of the eligibility expansion.
- Saucon Mutual Insurance Company’s proposed conversion from a Mutual to a stock insurance company has prompted an Insurance Department informational hearing September 1 at 9:00 a.m. in Harrisburg. Those wishing to comment, send written comments, or attend are asked to contact Cressinda Bybee at email@example.com
- Allegheny Casualty Company is seeking Insurance Department approval to redomesticate to New Jersey.