The state House and state Senate convened last week for the final time before the mid-term elections, advancing several bills impacting the business community to the Governor’s desk.
Unemployment Compensation Tax Rate Fix
Last Monday, the PA Chamber led a coalition of more than 60 local chambers of commerce in sending a letter to state lawmakers urging them to pass S.B. 1083, legislation that would help a group of employers avoid an unfair increase to their unemployment compensation taxes. Two days later, the legislature advanced the bill to the Governor’s desk.
The Department of Labor and Industry estimated that 2,700 Pennsylvania employers with lower experience-based unemployment compensation tax rates are being assessed a rate increase because they were forced into a prolonged pandemic-related shutdown causing their rate to revert to the default level. Senate Bill 1083 provides a targeted, temporary exemption so these employers who were forced to shut down during the pandemic can maintain the lower unemployment compensation tax rate they earned.
The passage of S.B. 1083 underscores the effectiveness of local businesses and chambers of commerce working with the PA Chamber to advocate for pro-business legislation. We appreciate the work of state Sen. Dave Argall, state Rep. Tim Twardzik, the Wolf administration, and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle who supported this bill. Together with our statewide local chamber partners, we were able to advance legislation that will help many of our small businesses facing what would have been an imminent tax increase.
After several years of negotiations between legislative leaders, medical providers, health systems and insurance providers, the General Assembly passed legislation (SB 225) to provide for increased transparency and standardization of processes related to prior authorization for medical procedures.
The legislation establishes standard timelines for prior authorization decisions for health care services and prescription drugs and sets forth a standard process for appealing prior authorization decisions. Additionally, insurers are required to offer a peer-to-peer review discussion with a licensed health care professional if a prior authorization is denied. The legislation generally restricts prior authorization requirements for emergency services and closely related services to a covered service. In addition, it codifies an agreement reached between the Wolf administration and major insurance carriers in 2018 that exempts certain medication-assisted treatments for opioid use disorder.
Several transparency provisions are established, including a requirement that insurers make available their current medical policies through the plan’s publicly available website and provider portal. Additionally, insurers are required to notify patients of actions they can take in the event of a denial of prior authorization.
The legislation also establishes an exception request process to step therapy protocols that takes into account the clinical effectiveness of the prerequisite drug or therapy, past clinical outcomes, expected clinical outcomes and adverse reactions. Step therapy protocols generally require patients to try one or more lower cost medications before coverage for the medication originally prescribed by the patient’s provider will be approved.
These new requirements apply to fully insured health plans, Medical Assistance Managed Care Plans, and CHIP plans. The requirements do not apply to self-insured employer plans.
PA Chamber-Supported Workforce Bills Head to Governor
Among numerous bills passed by the legislature last week were two the PA Chamber has supported as part of a comprehensive strategy to address the labor shortage and workforce challenges employers continue to experience.
The PA Chamber supported H.B. 987, which builds on progress from Act 95 of 2018, which eliminated automatic driver’s license suspensions for certain non-driving related offenses. The PA Chamber backed this measure as suspensions often impact individuals’ employability by complicating commutes or when jobs involve driving. H.B. 987 expands the protection by applying to individuals who lost their license prior to Act 95.
The PA Chamber also supported H.B. 1829 which will suspend the requirement that minors seeking a work permit must sign the permit in the presence of the issuing officer; as well as allowing the issuing officer to conduct the examination via video conferencing. These policies were identified as unnecessary impediments for youth seeking employment opportunities.
These bills are headed to the Governor after passing both the House and Senate with strong bipartisan support.
Pennsylvania Business Corporation Law
Legislation that updates and modernizes the Pennsylvania Business Corporation Law was sent to the governor’s desk last week. HB 2057 adopts model legislation based on the Delaware General Corporation Law and the Model Business Corporation Act, which are the two leading sources of corporation law developments around the country. It also replaces a cumbersome filing with the Department of State every 10 years with a simplified annual report that is consistent with every other state.