Legislature(2013 - 2014)BARNES 124
04/11/2014 03:15 PM LABOR & COMMERCE
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SB 159-AIR AMBULANCE SERVICES 3:57:49 PM CHAIR OLSON announced that the next order of business would be SENATE BILL NO. 159, "An Act relating to air ambulance service providers, air ambulance membership agreements, and regulation of air ambulance service providers and air ambulance membership agreements by the division of insurance; and providing for an effective date." 3:58:11 PM CHRISTIE JAMIESON, Staff, Senator Bert Stedman, Alaska State Legislature, explained that passage of SB 129 would allow all life-saving air medical transport services to continue to offer membership programs to Alaskan residents. The purpose of a membership program is to cover all out-of-pocket expenses that may not be covered by a primary payer. Following an organizational restructure last year, in 2013, the Airlift Northwest membership program was discontinued by the Alaska Division of Insurance (DOI). The division deemed the membership program was no longer exempt from insurance regulations. Presently, the Airlift Northwest is allowed to honor existing memberships but cannot allow renewals to the program. This bill would exempt all air ambulance services from the state's insurance code thereby allowing continued membership programs to Alaskans. Over 3,000 Alaskan residents subscribe and benefit from the membership program. The Division of Elections said that it does not anticipate that SB 159 will result in any financial impact to the division and it has a zero fiscal note. 3:59:35 PM REPRESENTATIVE HERRON moved to adopt Amendment 1, labeled 28- LS1359\N.1, Wallace, 3/20/14, which read as follows: Page 2, following line 28: Insert a new subsection to read: "(c) Except as provided in this section, an air ambulance service provider or an air ambulance membership agreement that complies with this chapter is not otherwise subject to this title." There being no objection, Amendment 1 was adopted. 3:59:56 PM KONRAD JACKSON, Staff, Representative Kurt Olson, Alaska State Legislature, stated that Amendment 1 was brought forward by some who wanted it to be clear that an air ambulance provider is not subject to Title 21. 4:01:10 PM REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON understood that one main function of the DOI is to ensure that insurance is appropriately underwritten and that the resource will be there for the insured when the time comes. He asked if any concern exists or if people can be confident "the jet will come when it is called." MS. JAMIESON expressed her confidence that the [air ambulance service] will respond when called. CHAIR OLSON recalled the Airlift Northwest has been in business since the late 1970s or early 1980s, so it has established a track record. 4:02:36 PM REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON asked whether there are any other "carve outs" like this that aren't subject to the insurance code. He didn't think this was a bad idea but was curious. MARTY HESTER, Director, Division of Insurance (DOI); Anchorage Office, Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development, said different statutes deal with different lines of insurance and have different regulations and stipulations on those different lines of insurance. This would be a particular "carve out" for the air ambulance industry. He did not think it would be an "apples to apples" comparison for a different line or type of insurance would have the same type of application. 4:03:44 PM CHAIR OLSON, after first determining no one else wished to testify, closed public testimony on SB 159. REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER commented that the absence of questions demonstrates that this bill was vetted in previous meetings. He felt confident [about the bill.] 4:04:02 PM REPRESENTATIVE HERRON moved to report the CSSB 159, as amended, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, the HCS CSSB 159(L&C) was reported from the House Labor and Commerce Standing Committee.