BLOG: Protecting Pennsylvania’s Consumers

first_imgRead more agency year in review blog posts.Like Governor Tom Wolf on Facebook: Facebook.com/GovernorWolf By: Teresa Miller, Insurance Commissioner SHARE Email Facebook Twitter BLOG: Protecting Pennsylvania’s Consumerscenter_img January 13, 2016 Efficiency,  Government That Works,  The Blog,  Year in Review Since taking office, Governor Wolf and I have set consumer protection as the Insurance Department’s top priority. A big part of helping consumers is letting them know that we are here as a resource for them, and under Governor Wolf’s direction, we have substantially increased our consumer outreach.There were many times throughout 2015 where Governor Wolf and I took an active stand in order to put consumers first and protect them from future harm.Keeping Rates LowI’m also very proud of the work done by my department in reviewing individual and small group health insurance rates this year to ensure that we balanced the needs of the companies involved without placing too much burden on consumers through drastic rate increases. My department was able to save Pennsylvania’s consumers nearly $81 million – an outcome that wasn’t the case in all other states. I’m glad we can tell that story here.CHIPShortly after taking office, we addressed an issue where families enrolled in the full-cost CHIP program were facing tax penalties, because these plans did not meet minimum essential coverage standards dictated by the Affordable Care Act. We worked quickly to bring these plans up to MEC standards and obtained waivers so these families would avoid the tax penalty. Under the direction of Governor Wolf, we brought the remaining CHIP plans up to MEC standards so that more than 150,000 Pennsylvania children enrolled in the program could enjoy improved benefits and coverage standards.Highmark/UPMCThe Insurance Department is also continuing to play a role in protecting consumers affected by the consent decrees signed by Highmark and UPMC in 2014. My department supported Governor Wolf’s decision to go to court in order to protect the access of more than 180,000 seniors in western Pennsylvania to the doctors and hospitals of their choice, by requiring UPMC to stay in Highmark’s Medicare Advantage program, consistent with the terms of the consent decrees.Saving Consumers MoneyAway from the health side, we’ve taken a stand against unfair pricing tactics like the “widow’s penalty” and price optimization – a practice that occurs when insurers consider factors unrelated to expected losses and expenses, such as a customer’s likelihood to shop around for a better price, when setting rates. I issued notices to insurers to remind them that these practices are unfairly discriminatory and my department will not authorize rates that impose costs where additional risk can’t be proven.We’re also continuing to pursue other consumer protection issues, including surprise balance billing, which occurs when patients receive a bill for a service received at an in-network facility with an in-network provider but encounter an out-of-network provider at some point during care.What’s Next?These accomplishments demonstrate the Wolf Administration’s strong commitment to putting consumers first through increasing access to health insurance, ensuring consumers are treated fairly by companies, and educating the public on issues so consumers have the information they need to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.As we move into 2016, we’re going to continue to focus on finding solutions to issues that affect consumers every day.Find Us OnlineOver the summer, we revamped the Insurance Department website to make it much more user-friendly, and we’re making good use of this new platform to reach and educate consumers. We regularly update it with consumer alerts focused on seasonal tips or issues we hear of from consumers, and we’re producing more educational content, such as our videos and shopper’s guide to using and purchasing health insurance, to help consumers make educated and empowered choices.We’ve also joined social media, so head over to Facebook.com/PAInsuranceDepartment or follow us on Twitter @PAInsuranceDept.We’re going to work to become a more visible force in communities around the commonwealth. I want Pennsylvania consumers to know that we’re here as a resource and to connect with consumers in their own environments, and I strongly encourage you to contact us if you have any issues or concerns via our Consumer Services Bureau at 1-877-881-6388 or through our contact form at insurance.pa.govlast_img read more

Court Sides with FPL in Broward Nursing Home Hurricane Case

first_imgNursing Home Employees Say Rick Scott Destroyed Evidence Post-Irma If you’ve already reported the downed line, we have a record of it. Stay away, the lines could be dangerous. #Irma #FPL pic.twitter.com/arJWYw8TDE— FPL (@insideFPL) September 12, 2017 A state appeals court on Wednesday rejected a lawsuit that blamed Florida Power & Light for a deadly situation in which residents of a Broward County nursing home were stuck without power following Hurricane Irma in 2017.A three-judge panel upheld a circuit court decision that dismissed the allegations made against the state’s largest power utility by Christine Cooper, who was a resident of The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. The storm knocked out power to the center’s air conditioning system for three days.Authorities later attributed 12 resident deaths to the warm conditions inside the building due to the loss of power.Cooper’s lawsuit alleged that FPL was partially responsible and claimed the utility did not act to quickly restore power.However, the appeals court ultimately focused on whether FPL had a legal “duty of care” to Cooper and concluded the company did not.center_img “Were we to find such a duty, it would open up public utilities to enormous liability for every conceivable injury, both personal and property, which may occur during a power outage,” said the ruling, which was written by Judge Martha Warner and joined by Judge Alan Forst and Associate Judge Lisa Walsh.It continues, “And to have a jury assess the adequacy of FPL’s plans and performance during an event, such as an outage due to a hurricane, would interfere with the extensive regulation of public utilities already required through the Public Service Commission. Such a ‘drastic shift’ of liability to a public utility is more properly made by the Legislature or Public Service Commission.”The state eventually revoked the nursing home’s license. Earlier this year, the 4th District Court of Appeal supported an administrative law judge’s decision to uphold the license revocation.Cooper sued both FPL and the nursing home, seeking damages from the power company for bodily injury and emotional distress. Her complaint alleged, “that FPL had a general duty to the public to maintain and operate the electric grid so that power is supplied.”last_img read more