LEG REG REVIEW 2015, 6th Issue *** February 16, 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.



On February 9, Governor Tom Wolf began the process to reverse the HHS-approved Healthy PA advanced by his predecessor, Tom Corbett.  This begins fulfillment of a campaign promise to return to traditional Medicaid, although expanded in line with the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (PPACA).  In making the announcement, Governor Wolf said that those currently enrolled in Healthy PA (approximately 156,000) will not be affected yet.  According to the Administration, individuals in the Private Coverage Option will be transited into “one streamlined adult package without interruption to their coverage and services.”  Extensive details are not yet available but cited by the Wolf Administration were some specific problems said to be inherent within Healthy PA:

–         Individuals receiving active drug and alcohol treatment were moved into the Private Coverage Option with the result that “thousands of people did not receive their care”.

–         Confusion resulted “among a large group of applicants … partly due to the Department of Human Services asking people to supply detailed personal information such as bank statements, vehicle value, and retirement account information, despite this information not being required under Medicaid expansion.”

–         Special populations “such as women receiving breast cancer screenings were incorrectly moved into the Private Coverage Option…with approximately 90,000 women at risk of losing access to women’s health care coverage.”

Resources include some Q&A at https://www.healthchoicespa.com/  and the Governor’s press release: https://www.pa.gov/Pages/NewsDetails.aspx?agency=PAGovNews&item=16496#.VNptnSyv9jw



The Senate Appropriations Committee is slated to take up PAHU-supported Senate Bill 293 (Eichelberger-R-Blair) this week after having passed the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee by a vote of 9-5 on February 3.  If the fast track continues, the Senate could take up the full bill before the March Budget recess.  SB 293 would require individuals working for navigator, certified application counselors, and other “assistors” to register with the PA Insurance Department and have a criminal background check.  According to NAHU, 21 other states have already enacted similar legislation.



On February 12, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) approved the compliance plan filed by Lyft.  The ride-sharing company now has two years to operate in most of PA (except Philadelphia which is regulated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority).  This experimental service license means that service may begin immediately.  The insurance industry has raised concerns about the insurance provided by Lyft and Uber for their services.  It is unclear as to whether or not all of these were addressed by the PUC action.  Senator Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny) is introducing legislation establishing a regulatory structure for transportation network companies.  Following is a link to his sponsorship memo:  https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=S&SPick=20150&cosponId=15910  On January 29, the PUC approved the plan filed by Lyft competitor Uber, again an experimental license in most of PA except for Philadelphia.




Up to now, the LEG REG Review has not reported on the status of legislation that would legalize marijuana for medical use but a number of people including reader Jason Burkett have suggested that if cannabis was legalized, there would be an impact on the insurance industry both in terms of health insurance claims but also in potential markets being created in liability and property insurance for the suppliers.  Right now, there are two bills introduced this session:

  • Senate Bill 3 (Folmer-R-Lebanon and Leach-D-Montgomery) is sponsored by two unlikely allies since Daylin Leach is strongly liberal while Mike Folmer is one of the more conservative/libertarian members of the Senate.  The bill is highly bipartisan with 14 Democrats and 12 Republicans sponsoring the bill.  Status:  SenateState Government Committee since January 26 but the Senate State Government Committee is holding a public hearing on SB 3 on February 25.
  • House Bill 193 sponsored by Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Phila.) would regulate the growing and distribution of medical cannabis and establish the State Board of Medical Cannabis.  His bill has 16 Democratic sponsors and two Republican sponsors.  Status: House Health Committee since February 2.



The PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) February 10 began notifying about 2,000 property owners in Pleasant Hills, AlleghenyCounty, to warn them about abandoned coal mines beneath their property.  The DEP notice is reminding them of the potential need for mine subsidence insurance.  Licensed property agents are authorized to sell DEP mine subsidence insurance and receive a commission.  Contact: John Poster, DEP Southwest Regional Office 412/442-4203 or www.paMSI.org



On February 18, the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee has four bills on its agenda:

–         SB 487 (McIlhinney-R-Bucks) to prevent healthcare plans from inappropriately shifting cost of medical care to consumers by prohibiting imposition of multiple co-payments for licensed physical therapy and occupational therapy.

–         SB 489 (Yaw-R-Lycoming) regarding check cashing rules

–         SB 494 (Yaw) to eliminate the requirement that the Insurance Department  provide hard-copy reports to the General Assembly on Flood Insurance coverage in the Commonwealth

–         HB 159 (Kampf-R-Chester), a re-introduction from last session, making it easier for reciprocal exchanges (medical malpractice liability) to convert to stock companies. 



A January 29 announcement by Governor Wolf stated that Highmark will continue to cover pregnancy and related care at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC despite the hospital no longer being in their provider network.  Patients would pay in-network rates.  This applies to women whose pregnancy care began prior to December 31, 2014.



The PA Department of Revenue released January 2015 figures showing that earlier warnings by the Independent Fiscal Office in November 2014 that the state would be $171 million short this fiscal year (ending June 30, 2015) may be moot.  January General Fund revenue was $2.4 billion, $89.7 million more than projected.  Year to date collections are $360.4 million over estimate.  Breakdown showing year to date estimates are: Sales Tax $66.6 million more than anticipated; Personal Income Tax $400,000 over estimate; Corporate Tax Revenue $162.6 million more than anticipated; Inheritance Tax revenue $81.5 million more than anticipated; Other General Fund taxes (tobacco, malt beverage, liquor and table games) showed $23 million above estimate.  On the negative side was the Real Estate Transfer Tax which came in $28.4 million below estimates year to date.

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