Denn keeps pushing insurance reforms

By ERIC RUTH, The News Journal
http://www.delawareonline.com

The state’s insurance commissioner says he won’t give up this year on several reforms that have been rebuffed by the Legislature, and will expand his agenda to include a few new causes.

Outgoing Insurance Commissioner Matt Denn, who is in a Democratic primary race for lieutenant governor, said Friday his goals are within reach, despite steady opposition from the insurance industry.

Public pressure on lawmakers will be the key, Denn believes — just as an outspoken constituency is partly responsible for his priorities.

“A substantial number of bills that are on the agenda this year were generated by people doing exactly that,” he said.

Several initiatives have been introduced in past sessions, though each failed to gain consideration by the full House after Senate approval:

•Senate Bill 6, creating a statewide health insurance purchasing pool for individuals and families at or below state median income, and for businesses with 30 percent or more of their employees below median income.

•Senate Bill 37, allowing the Department of Insurance to regulate health insurance rates. Denn wants the law to give his office the same level of regulatory power that it holds over workers’ compensation and auto insurance rates.

•Senate Bill 58, allowing the Insurance Department to regulate medical discount plans. Denn wants to target a type of costly insurance that is marketed toward low-income and uninsured customers.

Three other bills have been introduced and are under consideration:

•House Bill 267, allowing disabled Delawareans to purchase Medicare Supplement insurance. This would require companies to include the disabled in a type of assistance now offered to the elderly. Primarily, it would benefit dialysis patients.

•House Bill 286, to use free and reduced-price school lunch information to target families whose kids might be eligible for health coverage under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

•Senate Bill 191, barring insurance companies from canceling homeowners policies because of reasonable claims. A court recently ruled that this was not an issue Denn’s office may regulate, but this bill would restore that power.

Two new issues await introduction in March:

•Legislation barring auto insurance companies from canceling policies of volunteer fire company members simply because they are volunteers. “This actually was brought about because that actually happened to one of them,” Denn said. “We had no idea that that was actually happening.”

•Legislation allowing retired doctors to work for the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Elsmere, where there are no orthopedic surgeons, without losing malpractice insurance. Patients requiring certain procedures must go out of state because local doctors risk exposure to past malpractice cases, Denn said.

Rep. Donna D. Stone, R-Dover South, chairwoman of the committee that has prevented several Denn-backed bills from reaching the House floor, could not be reached for comment on Friday. Neither could the lobbyist for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware.
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