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.
AUTO APPRAISER BILL GOES TO GOVERNOR
After acrimonious debate throughout its legislative journey, House Bill 1638 (Tobash-R-Schuylkill) received a final nod from the House as it concurred with Senate amendments April 4. If signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf, HB 1638 would amend the Motor Vehicle Physical Damage Appraisal Act to allow for photos to be used as documentation of a vehicle’s post-accident condition when making an appraisal. Disputed findings by auto shops and others would mean a physical personal inspection of the vehicle. The House vote was a bipartisan 129-59.
MEDICAL CANNABIS BACK IN SENATE
Legislation to legalize medical use of cannabis (medical marijuana) was returned to the Senate and referred to the Senate Rules Committee after a 149-43 vote by the PA House. Senate Bill 3 (Folmer-R-Lebanon and Leach-D-Montgomery) would establish a regulatory approval system for entities seeking to provide this medical cannabis for specific medical conditions. It also includes taxation provisions as well and envisions as much as $68 million going to the Commonwealth in the first year or so with $20-40 million per year thereafter.
AUTO INSURANCE SUBJECT OF HOUSE HEARING
This week a joint hearing of the House Insurance and House Transportation Committees airs positions on two bills that would double the minimum required coverage for auto insurance (for example from $5,000 collision to $10,000 etc.) House Bill 1258 (Ellis-R-Butler) and Senate Bill 928 (White-R-Indiana) represent long-standing efforts by advocates to increase the required levels. Supporting the bills are the Independent Agents and Brokers Association (IA&B) representing independent property casualty insurance agencies and the trial lawyers. Opposed is the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania representing insurance carriers which write auto insurance. The other insurance company association, PA Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (PAMIC) is neutral on the legislation.
POVERTY LEVELS PUBLISHED
The PA Bulletin published Federal Poverty Income Guidelines for 2016 retroactive to January 25, 2016. The Notice also gives Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) eligibility levels for various programs.
As an example, 100% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines are:
Number Persons Monthly Income Annual Income
One $990 $11,880
Two $1,335 $16,020
Four $2,025 $24,300
Eight $3,408 $40,890
Each above eight $347 $4,160
A link to the PA Bulletin follows: https://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol46/46-14/568.html
NEW LEGISLATORS SWORN IN
Taking their seats after March’s special elections were three new members of the PA House. They are Democrats Lynwood Savage and Tonyelle-Cook-Arts, both from Philadelphia. Republican Eric Neilson was elected from Westmoreland County. These elections do not change the party ratio since these new legislators are of the same parties as their predecessors.
BUDGET UPDATE FOR THE CURRENT FISCAL YEAR
And you thought this was over? To recap, after several vetoes, Governor Wolf signed a partial budget into law with dozens of line-item vetoes affecting education, corrections, agriculture, etc. The General Assembly passed a bill to restore these vetoed budget items. Governor Wolf let the bill become law without his stamp of approval. BUT…that was the spending budget. The other budget specifies how the money will be spent, for example, what educational funding distribution formula to use. Known as the Fiscal Code, Governor Wolf vetoed it, saying that the legislature had exceeded its constitutional authority among other things. Faced with a possible veto override, the Governor and legislative leaders seem to have come to terms on a revised Fiscal Code bill.
The House took an agricultural bill, House Bill 1589 (Causer-R-Cameron/Potter/McKean) and amended it with new Fiscal Code language. This passed April 6, 2016 by a 176-11 vote. This week the Senate is expected to take up the bill and, barring amendments will send it to the Governor for his signature. Then, the State Budget for the current fiscal year which began July 1, 2015, will finally be complete.
SWIF INVESTMENTS INCLUDED IN FISCAL CODE BILL
In HB 1589 is a provision regarding equity investments made by the State Workers Insurance Fund (SWIF), the state’s Workers’ Compensation insurance for those firms that cannot acquire it from the private sector. As the largest insurer of WC in the Commonwealth, it has over a billion dollars in reserves, some of which is invested. SWIF would be able to invest the lesser of 15% of SWIF assets or 7.5% of the assets’ book value. Its’ investment authority had expired and the new sunset date is June 30, 2018.
- The Patient Safety Authority will meet April 26 in Summerdale (just outside of Harrisburg). In addition to the meeting, the Authority announced that it has a new executive director, Regina Hoffman. She worked on patient safety previously with the Patient Safety Liaison Program and served in patient safety roles in Lancaster and Schuylkill Counties. She is a graduate of the Pottsville Hospital School of Nursing.
- Health Care Cost Containment Council issued its annual report of special studies seeking health treatment/hospital mortalities/re-admissions, etc. for 2014. There were 67 studies requested. A breakdown shows: 13 requests from universities for data; 29 hospitals, health care networks and ACOs requested data; 24 government agencies requested data; two insurers requested data; and the rest were requests from private individuals and research firms.
- Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) issued comments on a proposed rule by the Insurance Department regarding insurance company annual financial reporting requirements. The public comment period had closed February 22, 2016 (Regulation #11-254 IRRC #3129)
FLOOD MAP APPEAL ADVISORY ISSUED BY INSURANCE DEPARTMENT
On April 4, the PA Insurance Department issued a consumer alert telling homeowners how they can appeal a re-mapping by FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) which resulted in increased Flood Insurance premiums. The homeowner must show that the lowest adjacent grade or lowest ground touching the structure is at or above the computed elevation to which flood water is expected to rise. The homeowner can appeal using a Letter of Map Agreement available from https://www.fema.gov/information-homeowners.