CHIP RENEWAL SIGNED INTO LAW
On December 15, Governor Wolf signed House Bill 1388 (Irvin-R-Mifflin/Centre/Huntington) into law. 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.
SENATE BANKING & INSURANCE COMMITTEE MOVES TWO BILLS
The Senate Banking & Insurance Committee approved two bills sponsored by its Chair Don White (R-Indiana) on December 13. Senate Bill 637 was amended to eliminate wording that would have established a Pharmaceutical Transparency Commission. The bill retains language to review drug prices in Pennsylvania and requires pharmaceutical companies to disclose information about their pricing. It also requires disclosure of rebates paid by pharmaceutical companies to prescription drug managers and insurers. The vote to report the bill was 10 to 4 with Republicans Tom Killion (Delaware), John Eichelberger (Blair), Kim Ward (Westmoreland), and Gene Yaw (Lycoming) voting no.
The second bill was Senate Bill 1003 which would require insurance companies and Medicaid to reimburse emergency medical services agencies for services provided even when transport to a hospital does not take place. This seeks to address a long-standing concern of the EMS community that, when they are called and the person declines transport to the hospital, they are not reimbursed for their cost.
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).
VETO-BOUND ABORTION BILL ON GOVERNOR’S DESK
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. The vote was not strictly along party lines. Six Republicans voted no while 12 Democrats voted for the abortion restriction. Governor Wolf 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.”
LEGISLATURE IN RECESS
The General Assembly has recessed for the holidays. It will return January 2 in a non-voting session and return to a voting calendar January 22.
- State Representative Kevin Haggerty (D-Lackawanna) has marked up over 20 unexcused absences since July 22, making it possible for the House to vote him in contempt of the rules of the House. According to a December 11 Associated Press story, Rep Haggerty “defended his absences by saying that he has to stay near his two young children while he and his wife divorce”.
- December 26 is the last date to register in order to vote in the special election to replace Rep. Marc Gergeley (D-Allegheny) who resigned in November after being convicted on violation of PA’s gambling laws. Questions? The special election will be held January 23. Allegheny County Election Bureau 412-350-4510
- Rep. Brandon Neuman (D-Washington) resigned his House seat December 12 since he was elected to a local judgeship.
- Senate Bill 761 (Argall-R-Schuylkill) amends the State Constitution to allow gubernatorial candidates to select their running mate as Lieutenant Governor no later than 90 days before the general election. It passed the Senate State Government Committee without dissent on Dec. 1.
DEPARTMENT RELEASES LIST OF QUALIFIED UNLICENSED REINSUERS
On December 16 the PA Bulletin published the list of Insurance Department-approved unlicensed reinsurance companies who are authorized to accept reinsurance. https://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol47/47-50/2098.html
MARKET REGULATION OFFICE ISSUES YTD NUMBERS
The Office of Market Regulation of the PA Insurance Department issued year to date numbers through November 2017 showing over $62 million in restitution paid to 31,456 consumers. In addition, in the same period, $2.989 million in penalties were assessed on insurance companies and insurance producers.
MEETINGS AND MORE MEETINGS
The Independent Regulatory Commission (IRRC) posted these meetings for 2018: January 18, February 22, March 22, April 19, May 17, June 14, July 19, August 16, September 13, October 18, November 15, and December 6.
SOME OF THE BILLS TO WATCH IN 2018
- House Bill 1688 (DeLissio-D-Montgomery/Phila.) would replace the health insurance status quo with a single-payer plan in Pennsylvania. Status: House Health Committee
- House Bill 1966 sponsored by Rep. Bob Freeman (D-Northampton) would give the State Workers’ Insurance Fund (SWIF) the authority to sell health insurance. Currently, SWIF is the insurer of last resort for Workers’ Compensation insurance. Status: House Insurance Committee
- Remember the controversy reported in previous LEG REG Reviews about language grafted on the CHIP reauthorization bill, HB 1388, which would prohibit CHIP monies being spent on transgender procedures or services? Well, that language was taken out and HB 1388 is now law. However, the issue lives on with the introduction of House Bill 1933 by Rep. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford). Status: It was reported out of the House Health Committee on a party-line vote with Democrats voting against the prohibition.
- House Bill 1095 (Heffley-R-Carbon) would prevent those without proper identification of residency in the U.S. from receiving public state benefits. Status: Passed the House 139-58 and is now in the Senate State Government Committee.
- Senate Bill 918 (Dinniman-D-Chester) mandates insurance coverage for a prostate-specific antigen test. Status: Senate Banking & Insurance Committee
- House Bill 1605 (Tobash-R-Schuylkill) would permit the charging of fees by health insurance brokers for individual health insurance policies if they are not paid a commission. Status: House Insurance Committee