New legislation in Pennsylvania could give the state’s Insurance Commissioner new power

Pennsylvania InsurancePennsylvania’s Insurance Commissioner may soon be getting more authority to influence the terms of health insurance policies as a new bill gains approval from the state’s Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. The bill would allow the commissioner to extend terms of contracts formed between Highmark Inc., one of the state’s largest insurance companies, and UPMC, a health care provider. The Commissioner would also gain the power to affect policies coming from Highmark, requiring the insurer to make changes if necessary.

Both Highmark and UPMC have been unable to reach an agreement on a contact that would prolong the relationship between the two entities. If the contract were allowed to expire, consumers insured by Highmark would lose access to physicians in June 30, 2012. If the bill passes, the Insurance Commissioner will be given the ability to extend the terms of the existing contract by up to three years.

Legislators are unwilling to have the contract expire as they believe it would put consumers in a difficult position. Both Highmark and UPMC have shown opposition to the bill. Highmark wants to negotiate new terms to the contract, whereas UPMC is unwilling to negotiate new terms. The legislation will continue to the full Senate next year, where it is expected to pass to the House and then to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.

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