Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Rick Taylor and the Importance of Being Earnest

Like Oscar Wilde’s play this blog post concerns mistaken identity, one thing being taken for another, and, had we seen the entire thing played out on PCN, probably some comic relief. It is a tale of two bills, a rose by any other name, and, for all we know, a lost handbag features in there somewhere.

On March 8th of this year Sen. Jake Corman and 9 other Pennsylvania state senators introduced SB 548. It ran exactly 12 lines and gave a brief outline for setting up the Long-Term Care Partnership Program, and amending P.L. 682, No. 284. It wound its way through the Banking and Insurance committee and the Appropriations committee and was passed on April 17. Then it went over to the House of Representatives and there we shall leave it for the moment.

On March 29th, Rep. Rick Taylor and 25 colleagues introduced HB 966, defining long-term care insurance, the Long-Term Care Partnership Program, and amending P.L. 682, No. 284. It was 5 pages long and gave detailed instructions on how the previous law should be amended, such as defining long-term care insurance, what policies shall provide coverage, who qualifies as a resident, what a multiple welfare arrangement is, penalties for fraudulent insurance sales, and assorted other details that, if you are not careful, will render you unconscious if you try to read and understand them. It’s that powerful. The bill was referred to the Insurance committee and amended, referred to the Rules committee and amended, and then passed on June 26. The first amendment added 21 words to the body of the bill and expanded a one sentence section into an 8 line section. The second amendment removed four words and added in 24. Then it went over to the Senate.

In the Senate it was referred to the Banking and Insurance committee, amended, referred to the Appropriations committee and amended, and then passed on June 30. The first amendment removed 69 lines and added in enough material (something about insurance company mergers, I think) to make the bill 16 pages long. It was still 16 pages long after the second Senate amendment. Then it went back to the House, was referred to the Rules committee on June 30 and has not been heard from again since.

Meanwhile, back in the House, SB 548 is referred to the Insurance committee, amended, referred to the Appropriations committee, and passed on July 16. It went back to the Senate which concurred with the amendment and it was passed there as well. On July 17 it was signed by the governor and became law.

The House amendments to SB 548 turned the 12 line bill into a five page law. Those five pages are almost identical to the original form of HB 966, introduced by Rep. Taylor. According to a press release issued when SB 548 was signed into law:

Taylor successfully sponsored amendments to the bill (S.B. 548) as it passed through the House and the Senate concurred in his additions.

The new law (Act 40 of 2007) enables Pennsylvanians to purchase comprehensive insurance coverage from providers for both home care and nursing home care in order to protect their assets. The care of approximately 44 percent of nursing home residents is paid through Medical Assistance, and under current law, those who had personal assets above the limits had to first pay with those personal assets before Medical Assistance could kick in.

“There are two big pluses to moving new and existing long-term care insurance policies into the Partnership Program,” Taylor said. “Before receiving benefits, participants would not have to first divest themselves of assets like their home, investments or priceless family heirlooms they hoped to leave for future generations.

“Secondly, individuals who buy into partnership policies would most likely never have to go on Medical Assistance, alleviating taxpayers from footing the bill for any residential or nursing home care they may need, and right now those assistance figures are enormous.”

Sen. Corman’s press release is also available online.

It should be noted that before being elected to represent the 151st legislative district, Taylor worked as a manager of global compensation for IMS Health and has a background in industrial and labor relations.

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