SESSION DAYS ANNOUNCED FOR 2018
January 2,22,23,24 2,22,23,24,29,30,31
February 5,6,7 5,6,7
March 12,13,14 19,20,21,26,27,28
April 9,10,11,16,17,18,30 16,17,18,23,24,25,30
May 1,2,22,23 1,2,21,22,23
June: Both in session 4,5,6,11,12,13,18,19,20,21,25,26,27,28,29 The House is in session June 30.
CHIP RENEWAL RETURNS TO NON-TRANSGENDER LANGUAGE
House Bill 1388 (Irvin-R-Huntington/Centre/Mifflin) started out as a simple reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through 2019. In the Senate, the bill became ensnarled in a feisty controversy on reversing Governor Wolf’s decision allowing CHIP monies to be spent for transgender transition. This was rebuffed by the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee but was partially restored when the Senate changed language to only cover transgender counseling services. The House has now reverted to a prior Printer’s Number. This means that all the Senate language was stripped so that it is now again a simple bill. There was a House amendment which gives the bill some flexibility. Original language said that CHIP was re-authorized through December 31, 2019 or 90 days after Federal funding for CHIP ceases. The amendment allows for an extension if the Federal Government authorizes funding beyond December 31, 2019. Without HB 1388, CHIP would have ‘sunset’ by the end of 2017.
HB 1388 received Senate concurrence December 11 and the bill has gone to Governor Wolf.
HOUSE HEALTH TAKES UP BALANCE BILLING
On December 11, the House Health Committee reported out House Bill 1553 (Baker-R-Tioga/Potter). It prevents “surprise billing” also known as “balance billing”, a situation that occurs when a patient goes to an in-network provider such as a hospital and the provider subcontracts services such as anesthesiology to a non-network provider. The patient is hit with sometimes huge non-network bills. HB 1553 requires in-network billing given the patient’s reasonable assumption that the range of services was in-network. The bill is bipartisan with 20 Republican sponsors and 11 Democrats on the bill. Noteworthy is the sponsorship by both majority and minority chairs of both the House Health and House Insurance Committees. Its’ Senate counterpart is Senate Bill 678 (Schwank-D-Berks).
BUDGET REFORM BILLS CROWD HOUSE VOTING CALENDAR
On the active House calendar this week were six bills designed to improve the State Budget process. One, House Bill 1940 (Reed-R-Indiana), says that a State Budget bill taking effect without the Governor’s signature (as happened in 2017) must not have spending levels exceeding revenue estimates. The other bills are House Bill 1941, House Bill 1942, House Bill 1943, House Bill 944, and House Bill 1945. Text and explanation memos may be found at www.legis.state.pa.us.
On December 12, all passed 116-76 with Democrats voting no.
DENTAL DIRECT PAYMENT BILL ON MOVE IN SENATE
Legislation allowing for direct reimbursement from insurer to dental service providers was re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Sponsored by Senator John Eichelberger (R-Blair), SB 373 also directs the Legislative Budget & Finance Committee to conduct a study of costs and benefits associated with direct reimbursement of nonparticipating providers by health insurance carriers, impact on consumers of prohibiting carriers from refusing a valid assignment of benefits, and the impact of requiring direct reimbursement of nonparticipating providers by health insurance carriers on a carrier’s ability to maintain an adequate number of in-network providers. The legislation also says that the dental claim form must clearly state whether the provider seeking authorization for direct payment will bill the patient for whatever the carrier does not pay. Once reported out by that committee, SB 373 could receive a full Senate vote.
HEALTH DEPARTMENT SETS PATIENT RECORDS FEES
The Department of Health published its annual schedule of what medical providers may charge patients for copies of their medical records. For example, a provider may charge up to $1.51 per page for pages 1-20, $1.12 for pages 21-60, and 38 cents for pages 61-plus. Microfilm copies can go as high as $2.23 per page. There is a flat fee of $28.48 for records supporting any Social Security claim or any needs-based Federal or state program. Records requested by a district attorney will cost a flat fee of $22.48. This was published in the December 3, 2017, PA Bulletin, www.pabulletin.com.
- Jeannie McNeill is succeeding her late husband Dan McNeill (D-Lehigh) after a special election held December 4, thus keeping the seat in Democratic hands. She will hold this office for the remainder of this legislative session. If she decides she wants to continue, she will need to pass through the 2018 primary and win a general election in November of next year.
- Rep. Harry Lewis (R-Chester) announced that he is not seeking re-election in 2018.
- Rep. Brandon Neuman (D-Washington) resigned his House seat December 12 since he was elected to a local judgeship.
- GOVERNOR POLITICS
Democratic PA Representative Madeline Dean (Montgomery) added her name to a growing list of contenders for Lt. Governor Mike Stack’s position. Running for re-election, Stack has five contenders for the Democratic nomination. One, former populist mayor and Democratic candidate for Senate 2016 John Fetterman, received a public endorsement from former Governor Ed Rendell. An interesting development took take place December 12 as the Senate State Government Committee reported out Senate Bill 761 (Argall-R-Schuylkill) to require that Governor and Lt. Governor run together rather than the current system which has led to compatibility issues (think former Governor Ed Rendell and Catherine Baker Knoll and now Governor Tom Wolf and Lt. Governor Stack).
VETO-BOUND ABORTION BILL HEADS TO GOVERNOR
On December 12, the House voted 121-70 for Senate Bill 3 (Brooks-R-Mercer/Crawford/Warren/Erie). This would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks versus the current 24. Governor Wolf has promised to veto it, stating “These women deserve our support, not to be maligned by politicians in Harrisburg for making medical decisions about their bodies for their families with their doctors. I will veto this bill because I stand with every woman in Pennsylvania who deserves to make her own health decisions.”
GOVERNOR WOLF TOUTS NAIC LIFE SEARCH TOOL
On December 8, Governor Tom Wolf issued a press release stating that over 500 life insurance policies paid more than $2.6 million in benefits and annuities found by the search engine run by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) and offered as a service by the PA Insurance Department. https://eapps.naic.org/life-policy-locator/#/welcome