LEG REG REVIEW 2015, 27th Issue – September 8, 2015

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 xenobun@aol.com.  Please email jtrout2792@aol.com supplying both your name and e-mail address if you wish to be removed from or added to this list.

 

BUDGET STATUS

No breakthrough is in sight after two months of unsuccessful negotiations.  While some discussions have centered on a modified pension reform proposal advanced by Republicans and apparent willingness to increase education funding, so far, there does not appear to be traction on any proposals.  Now, according to media, negotiations are taking place is smaller meetings.  Legislatively, there may be growing interest in adopting a continuing resolution which continues funding at present levels until an agreement can be reached for the Fiscal Year 2015-16 State Budget.

 

Meantime, the Revenue Department released tax collection numbers for August showing $1.9 billion, which, added to July’s, bring the fiscal year total to $4 billion.  Breakdown was:

Tax                                         August                        Fiscal Year To-Date

Sales                                        $804.8 million             $1.7 billion

Personal Income Tax               $742.6 million             $1.6 billion

Corporate                                $58.1 million               $132.1 million

Inheritance                              $71.9 million               $156.5 million

Realty Transfer                       $47.6 million               $100.5 million

Other General Fund                $123.1 million             $57.4 million

(Other includes cigarette, malt beverage, liquor and table games taxes.)

 

DEPARTMENT: NO MCARE CHANGE

The PA Insurance Department said that it has no plans to phase out the Medical Care Availability & Reduction of Errors Fund (MCARE).  Every two years, the Department makes a determination as to whether or not the threshold should be changed.  This decision means that a health care provider would continue to obtain private sector medical malpractice insurance coverage up to $500,000, and then pay a separate assessment for MCARE coverage.  This is the sixth such determination to stay the course, keeping the thresholds as is.

 

MORE ON MCARE…

September 18 is the last date that health care providers seeking assessment refunds may send spreadsheets to the PA Insurance Department (ra-in-mcarerefundctr@pa.gov ).  These refunds or offsets result from a lawsuit brought by hospitals and doctors which maintained that the Commonwealth acted illegally by tapping funds used to encourage physicians to stay in PA for other purposes.  MCARE is the second tier of required insurance for health care providers who pay a yearly assessment for the coverage.  Details: 717-231-6400

 

ELECTRONIC DELIVERY LAW IN EFFECT

Act 13 of 2015 takes effect September 8, 2015.  This law gives life insurance companies the option to send policies and annuities to their customers electronically if the consumer agrees.  Sponsored by House Insurance Committee Chair Tina Pickett (R-Bradford), proof of delivery is established by mail — electronically or hard copy –and the insurer has the burden of proof to show the policy or annuity was delivered.

 

DEPARTMENT GOES SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow the Insurance Department on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PAInsuranceDept and like on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PAInsuranceDepartment.

 

NATIONAL PREPAREDNESS MONTH

September is National Preparedness Month, a time when consumers and businesses are asked to review steps they have taken or should take in order to cope with crippling disasters.  FEMA, for example, is using the slogan ‘Take Action Today and Be Prepared Tomorrow.’  Pennsylvania Emergency Preparedness Agency (PEMA) is also promoting National Preparedness month, although with a different slogan, “Don’t Wait. Communicate”.  PEMA also stressed the importance of accessing the Federal resource web site, https://www.ready.gov/september .  PEMA’s website is https://www.media.pa.gov/Pages/PEMA-Details.aspx?newsid=44 .  The campaign promotes preparedness for floods, wildfires, hurricanes, power outages and builds towards September 30, National PrepareAthon Day using tools such as YouTube 15, 30 and 60-second spots.

 

REGULATORY UPDATE

  • PA Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4) is meeting in Harrisburg September 17.  Details: 717-232-6787
  • Children’s Health Advisory Council will meet September 29 in Harrisburg.  The Council’s purpose is to oversee outreach activities and evaluation of access and quality of services provided by the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  Details: Donna Beer 717-346-1363
  • The PA Insurance Department is convening a public hearing October 7 to receive comments on the proposed conversion of ARI Mutual Insurance Company into a PA stock property insurance company.  Details: 717-787-4298
  • Seeking renewal as a Certified Reinsurer is Swiss Reinsurance Company, Ltd.

 

HOUSE LABOR & INDUSTRY HEARING RE NURSING MOTHERS

Announced is an October 8 hearing of the House Labor & Industry Committee on a bill which would upgrade legal workplace requirements for nursing mothers.  House Bill 1100 (Mary Jo Daley-D-Montgomery and David Parker-R-Monroe) would expand Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (PPACA) requirements for employers (reasonable nursing break time, private area which can not be the firm’s washroom) under the Fair Labor Standards Act.  Specifically, HB 1100 seeks to include employees now exempted by PPACA and extend the law to those mothers who need to express milk after the baby turns one.

 

TWO INSURANCE DEPARTMENT ITEMS

  • PA Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller has asked insurance carriers to be lenient on enforcing deadlines for premium payments in the Philadelphia area in the event that mail service is interrupted or delayed because of Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia later this month.  She asked that affected policyholders be given an extra day or so to meet deadlines that may be impacted by this situation.
  • The Commissioner also issued a consumer alert urging homeowners to pay special attention to notices from their insurance companies that ask the homeowner to make specific repairs.  She noted that insurers may ask homeowners to take reasonable measures to lower risks on a property when issuing a policy or when a change to that property substantially increases risk.  The example used was an insurer requirement that a railing be installed if a new deck is “significantly higher than the ground”.  Although the insurer must allow for a reasonable period, policyholders are advised that insurers are in their legal rights to cancel or non-renew coverage on that property should changes not be made.

 

QUESTION for READERS:  Leg Reg Review received a comment that the Times New Roman font was hard to read on a smart phone versus a laptop or desk computer.  It was suggested that Tahoma font is more readable with hand-held electronic devices.  If you use a smart phone, please let us know what you think.  Should we change the font for Leg Reg Review?  Which works better?  Times New Roman or Tahoma?

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