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PIANH 2015 legislative wrap-up

By Bradford J. Lachut, Esq.

After months of work, the 2015 legislative has come to a close. For insurance producers, PIANH monitored proposals ranging from issues such as the PIANH-supported raffle bill; cancellation of homeowners policies; ride-hailing services; workers’ compensation reform; and the elimination of the Medical Malpractice Joint Underwriting Association.

PIANH supports an insurance market that fosters a fair and competitive environment between insurance producers and direct writers. Under current state law, producers are subject to an annual cap of $1,000 on raffles, from which insurers are exempt. PIANH helped introduce legislation this session (H.B.171) that would remove the annual cap on raffles for producers to ensure that they and direct writers can compete on an even playing field.

Since its introduction, PIANH has submitted written testimony in support of the legislation and testified in person at numerous committee hearings on how important it is to allow producers to compete fairly with carriers. This hard work has paid off as Gov. Maggie Hassan signed the legislation as Chapter 132 of the Laws of 2015, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2016. PIANH applauds the General Court and the governor for enacting this important legislation.   

Homeowners cancellations
PIANH Government Affairs Committee Chairperson and Vice President Jeffrey Foy, AAI, gave testimony on Jan. 15, 2015, before the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee in favor of H.B.137, a bill that would amend New Hampshire’s law on the cancellation of homeowners policies.

Under current New Hampshire law, it is illegal for a homeowners insurance policy to be nonrenewed based solely on the insured having filed a single valid claim within any one previous or current policy term. Last year, New Hampshire law was amended to make clear that inquiries about coverage on a policy do not constitute a valid claim.

This change came about through a proposal of the New Hampshire Insurance Department. At the time it was proposed, the department argued that nothing other than a valid claim should be considered, and they did not consider a request for information or a question about coverage to be a valid claim. PIANH agrees wholeheartedly with this view.

PIANH sees the effect that the potential of policy nonrenewal has on insureds on a daily basis. They are often hesitant, or they flat-out refuse, to approach their insurer or insurance agent with questions concerning their coverage out of fear that it will ultimately lead to a nonrenewal of their policy. It is imperative that insureds are comfortable having open and honest conversations with their insurers and agents about the coverages they have and how their policies will respond in the event of a loss. Without the ability to discuss these important issues, insureds run the risk of misunderstanding the coverages found in their policies and not having the proper protections in place if, and when, a loss occurs.

In keeping with the NHID’s admirable intentions, PIANH advocated for the passage of H.B.137, which furthers the goal of protecting the insured. H.B.137 would further define the term inquiry to encompass any claim that is closed without payment to the insured or third-party claimant, in which the insurer loss-adjusting expense does not exceed a certain level. This change would incorporate into the law situations in which an insured makes a claim that is rejected by an insurer due to the loss not being covered by the subject policy. This small change would further open the channels of communication between insureds, insurance agents and insurers while also fostering a greater understanding among insureds of their insurance coverage.

While this bill never made it out of the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee, PIANH is determined to keep fighting to ensure that the rights of policyholders are represented in the General Court.

Ride-hailing services
Gov. Maggie Hassan signed S.B.254, establishing a committee to study the provision of services to the public by Uber and other ride-hailing, commonly known as ride-sharing, services. The committee created by this legislation will work to create a statewide regulatory standard for ride-hailing services.   

New Hampshire medical malpractice
During this legislative session, the New Hampshire Insurance Department introduced legislation (H.B.508) to wind down and dissolve the Joint Underwriting Association. The decision to dissolve the JUA was made after completion of a study of the medical malpractice market in New Hampshire.

A public hearing was conducted by the NHID on Dec. 4, 2014, to gather information on the future of the JUA. PIANH, joined by representatives of the medical and insurance community, was asked to present testimony on whether the JUA is still necessary to the medical malpractice marketplace in the state.  After hearing testimony at the hearing and through additional research, testimony and surveys, the department found that medical malpractice insurance is readily available in New Hampshire. Therefore, in accordance with instructions from the legislative commission that requested the department’s report, the department prepared proposed legislation to wind down the JUA. This legislation was signed by the governor as Chapter 263 of the Laws of 2015.

Workers’ compensation reform
PIANH also has been closely monitoring the latest effort by the General Court to pass a bill (S.B.133) that would reform the state’s workers’ compensation program by implementing a workers’ compensation medical fee schedule.

The legislation was signed by the governor as Chapter 210 of the Laws of 2015 and is effective Sept. 4, 2015.

Other legislation signed by the governor
Gov. Maggie Hassan signed several other pieces of legislation that PIANH has been monitoring. These include:

  • S.B.119, an act relative to the regulation of consumer guaranty contracts by the insurance department and guaranteed asset protection waivers by the banking department, which is effective Sept. 4, 2015;
  • H.B.479, an act relative to uninsured or hit-and-run motor vehicle coverage and relative to the New Hampshire excellence in higher education endowment trust fund, which is effective Sept. 11, 2015.
  • H.B.506, an act clarifying the conditions under which motor vehicle information may be used, which is effective Sept. 11, 2015;
  • S.B.186, an act re-establishing the commission to study soft tissue injuries under workers’ compensation and to study the feasibility of developing a first responder’s critical injury fund, which is effective July 6, 2015, with Section 3 being effective Nov. 1, 2015;
  • S.B.232, an act exempting certain leases from the real-estate transfer tax, which is effective July 1, 2015;
  • H.B.180, an act relative to the definition of “price or consideration” under the real-estate transfer tax and relative to the exception for transfers by devise under such tax, which is effective July 1, 2015;
  • H.B. 184, an act relative to travel insurance, which is effective Aug. 31, 2015;
  • H.B.361,  an act establishing a committee to study the definition of “employee” and the application of that definition to persons who work exclusively at home via the Internet for online business activities, which is effective June 12, 2015;
  • H.B.364, an act relative to renewal fees administered by the office of professional licensing, the salt applicator certification program, and pesticide product registration requirements, which is effective July 1, 2015;
  • H.B.559, an act relative to vehicle registration by entities doing business in New Hampshire, which is effective Jan. 1, 2016;
  • H.B.584, an act making various changes to laws relating to motor vehicles and vessels, which is effective Jan. 1, 2016;
  • S.B.29, an act relative to fines for motor vehicle offenses, which is effective Jan. 1, 2016;
  • S.B.41, an act establishing a committee to study government immunity from suit and accountability by its citizens, which is effective June 26, 2015;
  • S.B.78, an act relative to original and youth operators' licenses, which is effective Aug. 7, 2015;
  • S.B.111, an act making changes to the life and health insurance guaranty association, which is effective Sept. 4, 2015.

Other legislation vetoed by the governor
Gov. Maggie Hassan vetoed several other pieces of legislation that PIANH has been monitoring. These include:

  • H.B.1, an act making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016, and June 30, 2017.
  • H.B.2, an act relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.


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