Colo. Ends Legislative Session; Positive for Insurance Industry

May 11, 2007

The Colorado Legislature wrapped up its regular session on May 4, with fairly positive results for the insurance industry and consumers. The auto insurance system will remain a tort system, instead of reverting back to a no-fault system, which many insurers had feared.

“With Democrats in control of the legislative and executive branches of government, we spent most of our time on the defensive, said Kelly Campbell, Property Casualty Insurers Association of America regional vice president and manager.

Lawmakers rejected Senate Bill 193, which would have required individuals to purchase $25,000 of medical payments coverage and $25,000 of rehabilitation coverage. This government mandate would have translated into a 40 percent rate hike for most consumers or an extra $200 per car, per year, Campbell said.

The legislature did address several workers’ compensation issues, which PCI believes will result in more litigation. SB 258 will change compensation relating to awards, hearings, evidence, and expert witnesses, PCI. “While several of the worst provisions were amended out of the bill, other provisions including a fee schedule for doctors providing expert witness testimony remained in the bill,” the association said.

Meanwhile, House Bill 1176, which allows an injured employee under the Workers Compensation Act of Colorado to select a treating physician from a list prepared by an employer under certain circumstances, was amended to allow consumers to choose the best provider for their care. At press time, the bill needed the signature of the president of the Senate before it could head to the governor’s desk.

On another workers compensation matter, PCI is asking Gov. Bill Ritter to veto HB 1008, which addresses workers compensation for firefighters with certain types of cancer.

“House Bill 1008 is attempting to create solution for a problem that does not exist,” Campbell said. “While we have the utmost respect and concern for firefighters, however, the wording of the bill is such that a firefighter with a listed cancerous condition will no longer be required to prove that the cancer was work-related, even for those situations where the claimant is a regular user of tobacco products or who has a history of tobacco use. In addition, municipalities will find it difficult to rebut the presumption on individual claims where there is evidence that other factors may be the cause of the disease including lifestyle, hereditary factors, and exposure from other employment or non-employment activities.”

Under current law, cancer caused by work-related exposure to carcinogens is considered an occupational disease and is covered by workers compensation. However, there must be proof that the disease was caused during the course of employment.

On a separate issue, SB 256 was introduced, which originally would have made uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage excess to liability coverage and also would have permitted stacking of UM/UIM coverages. The bill was amended. “Given the political dynamics and the short time frame, we are pleased with the compromise reached on this legislation,” Campbell said.

Finally, an attempt to subject insurance rates to prior approval failed. HB 1234 was amended to require the Division of Insurance to post the cover sheet of all rate filings on the Internet and requires insurers to file all of their rates electronically.

Source: Colorado General Assembly, PCI

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