Lawmakers Wrap Up 2015 Legislative Interim Studies
The General Assembly's interim study committees recently completed their work and submitted all findings and bill recommendations to legislative leaders in preparation for the 2016 session. Every summer, certain issues requiring more in-depth review are identified and assigned to interim study committees, where committee members take testimony from the public and develop formal recommendations that often serve as the blueprint for legislation in the upcoming session.
During this 2015 interim season, IAFP closely monitored the work of several committees that studied health care related issues.
Medical malpractice act study
The Interim Study Committee on Courts & the Judiciary reviewed several issues related to Indiana's medical malpractice act, specifically whether the overall cap on damages should be increased and whether any changes should be made in an effort to streamline the medical review panel process.
The panel took testimony from the medical community and from plaintiff and defense counsel, but ultimately, the committee's chairman, Senator Brent Steele (R-Bedford), opted not to issue formal recommendations citing the committee's desire to allow private negotiations continue between the Indiana Hospital Association, Indiana Trial Lawyers Association, and Indiana State Medical Association. The Chairman signaled that he would support an agreement reached by these stakeholders to increase to the medical malpractice damage cap; however, he cautioned that he will move his own bill in the 2016 session if a sufficient agreement is not reached in advance of January.
IAFP staff will continue to closely monitor this issue and work with legislative leaders as proposals for the 2016 session are discussed.
Smoking and other tobacco issues
The Interim Study Committee on Public Policy took extensive testimony on a number of policy proposals related to Indiana's public smoking ban, e-cigarette regulation and taxation, and the fiscal and public health impacts of an increase to the state's tobacco tax.
On behalf of IAFP, Richard Feldman, MD, provided testimony to legislators related to the dangers of e-cigarettes and tobacco use and underlined the medical community's support for increases to the state's tax on tobacco. Though the committee made no formal recommendations related to the tobacco tax, it is anticipated that discussions on a potential increase will continue in the 2016 session as legislative leaders look for additional revenue to address Indiana's road and infrastructure repair needs. Some legislators are eyeing a one-dollar-per-pack tax increase (from the current $0.995 tax), which would bring in $300 million in new revenue annually.
Denied health insurance claims
The members of the Interim Study Committee on Public Health, Behavioral Health and Human Services conducted a review of health insurance claim denials and examined the options available to consumers to file formal complaints against their health insurers with the Indiana Department of Insurance (IDOI). Committee members endorsed draft legislation for the 2016 session that would require the IDOI to develop a webpage where consumers can learn more about the procedures for filing complaints against a health insurer, and that would require health insurers to provide the website address to consumers upon policy issuance, policy renewals and with any notices of a claim's denial.
We will keep you updated as IAFP staff continues to meet with legislators regarding their draft proposals for the 2016 session.