LEG REG REVIEW 2015, 35th Issue – December 7, 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.

 

A BUDGET?  When the State Budget impasse is resolved, Leg-Reg Review will issue a special edition.

 

LTC COUNCIL SIGNED INTO LAW

Governor Tom Wolf signed House Bill 753 (Schlegel-Culver-R- Northumberland) into law as Act 64 of 2015.  This legislation culminates a four-year bipartisan effort to create a permanent Long-Term Care Council whose members will represent a wide span of interests with an interest in senior and long-term care quality and independent living issues.  PA Association of Health Underwriters (PAHU) was successful in making sure that an insurance producer with experience selling long-term care insurance was included.  PAHU’s view has been that LTC insurance is a way for families to handle their own financial responsibilities when loved ones require long-term care services.

 

HOUSE PASSES CHIP EXPANSION

On December 1, the House passed House Bill 1633 (Pickett-R-Bradford) by a vote of 191-0.  HB 1633 reauthorizes the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) until December 31, 2017.  It was amended to include language transferring the administration of the program to the PA Department of Human Services (formerly known as DPW) from the Insurance Department where it has been housed since its inception.  NOTE: Under third consideration in the Senate is House Bill 857 (Pickett-R-Bradford) which also reauthorizes CHIP until December 31, 2017.  Unlike HB 1633, HB 857 only reauthorizes CHIP and does not include the Department of Human Services language.

 

UPCOMING

  • The House Insurance Committee will receive an informational briefing from the PA Insurance Department on how the reserves of life insurance companies are analyzed by the Department.  This is part of NAIC’s accreditation process which mandates certain regulatory oversight requirements in ascertaining company solvency.
  • The House Aging & Older Adult Services holds an informational meeting December 9 with the PA Healthcare Association.  The purpose is to highlight challenges facing PA’s nursing homes and other long-term care providers.  Long-term care insurance is not expected to be part of this conversation.
  • On December 10, the Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee is holding a hearing on House Bill 1272 (Dush-R-Indiana/Jefferson) which would allow fire companies to bill users directly for services rendered.
  • The House has insurance bills on its active calendar:
  • Senate Bill 861 (White-R-Indiana) clarifying insurance responsibility for loaner cars when a passenger car is repaired
  • Senate Bill 494 (Ward-R-Westmoreland) eliminates a required Insurance Department hard copy report on Flood Insurance numbers.
  • House Bill 1638 (Tobash-R-Schuylkill) authorizing use of videos and cameras by auto accident appraisers.

 

 

 

SCHOOL BENEFITS CONSOLIDATION STUDY TO BE RELEASED

On December 9, the Legislative Budget & Finance Committee releases its’ study of school district employee benefit programs as to whether or not they should be consolidated into one state-run entity similar to the school employees’ retirement system.  PA Association of Health Underwriters (PAHU) vigorously opposes this approach just as it did in 2004, suggesting that school districts need to make the decisions that are best for them and that taxpayers can afford.  PAHU also pointed out that regional consortia have already addressed cost and claim concerns as an evolution in school benefit financing.

 

DEPARTMENT BEGINS IMPLEMENTATION of NAVIGATOR LAW

The PA Insurance Department began the process of implementing Act 7 (Senate Bill 293 sponsored by Senator John Eichelberger-R-Blair). Act 7 requires navigators, certified application counselors and other Affordable Care Act ‘assisters’ seeking to assist in exchange enrollment to register with the Insurance Department and require individuals working on their behalf to undergo a criminal background check.  Formal registration begins December 15.  A link to the Department’s web page follows:   https://www.insurance.pa.gov/Licensees/Navigators/Pages/default.aspx#.VmFdvl7cBjw Contact: David Buono dbuono@pa.gov

 

Those officially designated as navigators by HHS (and receiving ACA monies) are: Consumer Health Coalition (covers 36 counties); PA Health Access (state-wide); Benefits Data Trust (state-wide); Penn Asian Senior Services (Phila, County); PA Association of Community Health Centers (state-wide); PA Mental Health  Consumers’ Association (state-wide); Public Health Management Corporation (7 counties in southeast and northeast PA); and YWCA of Pittsburgh (Allegheny County).  There are also several hundred certified application counselors approved by HHS governed by Act 7.

 

PROPERTY TAX BILL FAILS IN SENATE

On November 23, the PA Senate failed to pass Senate Bill 76 (Argall-R-Schuylkill) where Lt. Governor Mike Stack broke a tie.  SB 76 would eliminate personal property taxes and would make up the money by increasing the rate of the sales tax and by expanding the reach of the sales tax into numbers of currently exempted business activities.  Although strongly supported by those seeking to eliminate the tax, SB 76 has formidable opposition as well.  One distinction between SB 76 and other attempts to reduce property taxes by expanding the range of taxable services is that SB 76 in part uses national occupational codes to determine which services would have been required to charge the sales tax.  Insurance agencies are not included on the SB 76 list.  The 25-24 vote was bipartisan with six Democrats voting for and eight Republicans voting no.  Tie-breaker Lt. Gov. Stack is a Democrat.

 

RIDE-SHARING BILL PASSES SENATE

On November 24, Senate Bill 984 (Bartolotta-R-Washington) passed the Senate by a 48-2 vote.  It establishes a regulatory framework under the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the Philadelphia Parking Authority to oversee ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft.  The legislation provides safety standards for vehicles and service standards.  The drivers’ insurance issue will be revisited in the House where previously, several legislators such as House Insurance Committee Minority Chair Tony DeLuca (D-Allegheny) pointed to an issue in Lyft/Uber’s business plans that could leave drivers with no personal auto insurance.  (Those plans dictate that their drivers would have to submit a claim to their primary carrier first and have it denied before the Lyft/Uber insurance would respond to the claim.  This could result in a policy termination because of the livery exclusion found in personal passenger auto policies.).  SB 984 was referred to the House Consumer Affairs Committee.

 

ITEMS TO NOTE…

  • Senator Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) relinquished his seat on the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee to new Senator Guy Reschenthaler (R-Allegheny) who won a special election in Allegheny County.
  • House Bill 1327 (Peiffer-R-Pike) reauthorizing the State Workers Insurance Fund until June 30, 2018 was re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee December 4.  SWIF’s authorization expired June 30, 2015.

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