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Vermont session ends with failure to pass ride hailing legislation

The Vermont Legislature concluded its 2017-2018 session last month. There were a number of bills of interest to agents and the insurance-buying public, including the following:

H.696, which was signed into law by Gov. Phil Scott as Act 182 in May, establishes an individual mandate for Vermont residents to maintain minimum essential health insurance coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2020. This act responds to the partial repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by the Congress in December 2017.

Similar to the PPACA, enforcement of the individual mandate would occur through a financial penalty or other enforcement mechanism that would be enacted by the General Assembly during the 2019 legislative session. The legislation also creates the Individual Mandate Working Group to develop recommendations regarding administration and enforcement of the individual mandate. Recommendations would be due to the legislative committees of jurisdiction by Nov. 1, 2018.

The act requires the Department of Vermont Health Access and others to engage in outreach and education efforts before and during the open enrollment periods for health insurance coverage for the 2019 and 2020 plan years regarding the importance of health insurance coverage and Vermonters’ responsibilities under the individual mandate.

H.143 would have imposed minimum insurance requirements for transportation network companies (e.g. Uber, Lyft). The bill also proposed to establish a variety of other conditions on these companies’ operation, including background checks for drivers. Under the bill, any driver logged into the digital network of a TNC and who is available to receive transportation requests, but is not engaged in a prearranged ride, would be required to carry proof of insurance coverage. The coverage must be offered in the amount of $50,000 for death or bodily injury per person; –$100,000 for death or bodily injury per incident; –and $25,000 for property damage. The bill would require that personal injury protection benefits be provided, which conform to current law and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage must be provided to the extent required under current law. When a TNC driver is providing a prearranged ride, the coverage requirements increase to $1 million for death, bodily injury, property damage and any other state requirement coverages.

Under the bill, coverage would be provided by either the TNC driver’s policy or by the TNC itself. If the TNC’s driver policy does not cover ride hailing, then the TNC would be required to provide coverage beginning with the first dollar of the claim, to which it would have the responsibility to defend. Coverage under a TNC policy is not dependent upon the private policy first denying a claim. Ultimately, the Legislation failed due to opposition from TNCs. It is likely that the legislature will consider similar legislation next session.

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