LEGISLATIVE ACTIONS BY GOVERNOR WOLF
- On October 30, Governor Wolf signed several budget bills into law. This update was sent out to GPAHU members last week. That information is available on the GPAHU website. Look for LEG REG Review 2017, 34th issue for particulars.
- Of particular concern is a provision in Act 44 (House Bill 674) where the General Assembly relinquished its authority in allowing the Governor to decide out of which dedicated funds $300 million could come. One of these funds supplies general government operations for the PA Insurance Department.
- The Governor’s pen was also busy in signing Senate Bill 181 (Mensch-R-Montgomery/Berks/Bucks) into law as Act 48 of 2017. It forces agencies to change their budgeting requests from incrementally adding to existing budgets to performance-based budgeting where there is no safe haven for existing budget questions and possible cuts.
- Vetoed was House Bill 59 which would have added a work search requirement for able-bodied Medicaid recipients.
WC PREMIUM INCREASE DELAYED
A 6.06%increase in Workers’ Compensation premiums that would have taken effect November 1 is delayed according to the October 30 Central Penn Business Journal because of a challenge from the PA Association for Justice (trial lawyers). Details were not released by the Insurance Department but the following was given in response to a LEG REG Review query:
While the PCRB proposed a November 1, 2017 effective date in the filing, the Department can use up to 180 days to review the filing in accordance with Article VII of the Workers Compensation Act. While we don’t anticipate needing the full 180 days contemplated by the law, we have not yet completed our review and the filing remains pending with the Insurance Department at this time. If the filing is ultimately approved, we would first require an amended (prospective) effective date as we are now past the November 1, 2017 effective date proposed by the PCRB and cannot approve rates retroactively.
UPDATES…House Bill 1388 (Irvin-R-Centre/Huntington/Mifflin) which reauthorizes the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) until December 31, 2019, has been referred to the House Rules Committee. It contains a controversial provision to ban CHIP dollars to be spend on transgender surgery although it does allow counseling coverage….House Bill 1335 (Pickett-R-Bradford) has been referred to the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee. Under this legislation, the Insurance Department would list vendors it has selected to perform market and financial exams and provide information as to how much those costs are. This is of particular interest to Health insurance companies which are concerned about lack of transparency and no apparent time limit to insurer-paid costs of these exams.
HEALTH REFORM NEWS – STATE
On November 3, the PA Insurance Department issued a media release explaining resource materials for those seeking Affordable Care Act exchange coverage:
The Insurance Department’s 2018 ACA resources page includes open enrollment printed marketing materials. Also on this page are department-produced “how to” videos on buying and using health insurance. The Insurance Department’s outreach campaign includes two 15-second video ads, one running now, and the other that will run from December 1 through 15, as well as a 30-second ad.
- There is a vacancy in PA’s 35th House District (Allegheny County) due to the resignation of Democrat Marc Gergely after a guilty plea was entered for misdemeanors in campaign finance violations. Speaker of the House Turzai must announce a special election date by November 16.
- The special election to replace resigned U.S. Representative Republican Tim Murphy will take place March 13, 2018 per announcement by Governor Wolf. Murphy resigned after allegations surfaced about his extra-marital relationship.
- PA Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny/Washington) has suspended his campaign for U.S. Senate in order to pivot to a candidacy to replace former Rep. Murphy.
- The national Cook Political Report changed the status of U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan’s re-election from ‘Likely Republican’ to ‘leans Republican’. This is good fund-raising news for PA Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) candidate for the Democratic nomination to challenge Meehan.
HEALTH REFORM NEWS – FEDERAL
- Details were released in Washington as to the tax reform proposal being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives. A link to a section by section summary follows with thanks to PA Representative Lloyd Smucker (R-16) for providing the information.
Some provision of interest to health insurance brokers:
- Section 1308: Itemized medical expenses deduction eliminated
- Section 1311: Termination of deductions and exclusions for Archer Medical Savings Accounts; Archer MSA balances could be rolled over into Health Savings Accounts without a tax consequence.
- Subtitle F: Section 1501: Repeal special rule that allows re-characterization of Roth IRA contributions as traditional IRA contributions
- Section 1502: Allow employee access to defined contribution pension at age 59 ½
- Subtitle H: Insurance: Sections 3701-3706 deal with life insurance companies and reserves.
- Sections 3707 – 3709 govern property casualty insurance companies and reserves.
- On November 2, the U.S. House voted 307 to 111 for H.R. 849, a measure repealing the Affordable Care Act provision establishing the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). This Board would have power to prepare an omnibus set of Medicare cuts to the Congress for an up or down vote similar to what the Base Realignment Advisory Commission (BRAC) did to facilitate military base closures. Pushback from groups like the Healthcare Leadership Council is that IPAB would have too much power and the elderly and disabled would ultimately be hurt.
All PA Republicans voted for H.R. 849 and all PA Democrats except for Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-13) from Phila/Montgomery Counties voted no. Twelve Republicans from PA sponsored the bill.
SYMPATHIES to family and friends of the late Fred Anton, formerly longstanding head of the PA Manufacturers’ Association (PMA) and business and Republican icon in Pennsylvania for many decades. His death was announced by PMA on November 3.