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Introduced Version House Bill 2388 History

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hb2388 intr
H. B. 2388


(By Delegates Rick Thompson, Staton,
Hrutkay, Caputo and Perdue)

[Introduced February 16, 2005; referred to the
Committee on Banking and Insurance then Government Organization.]



A BILL to amend and reenact º33-2-16, º33-2-17 and º33-2-18 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, all relating to insurance generally; and making the office of consumer advocacy independent of the Insurance Commissioner.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That º33-2-16, º33-2-17 and º33-2-18 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended and reenacted, all to read as follows:
ARTICLE 2. INSURANCE COMMISSIONER.
§33-2-16. Office of Consumer Advocacy established; appointed by Insurance Commissioner; Director of Consumer Advocacy; promulgation of rules.

There is hereby created within the agency of the Insurance Commissioner the office of Consumer Advocacy. The position of Director of the office of Consumer Advocacy shall be is a full-time position. and The director shall be appointed by the commissioner Governor, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate for a term of four years to coincide with the term of the Governor and may be discharged only for failure to carry out the duties of the office or for other good and sufficient cause.
The Insurance Commissioner shall provide office space, completely separate and apart from all other divisions and offices of the Insurance Commission, equipment and supplies for the office.
The director shall may promulgate rules pursuant to article three, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code in order to effect the purposes of this section, section seventeen, and section eighteen of this article.
On or before the first day of each regular session of the Legislature, the director shall file with the Governor, the clerk of the Senate and the clerk of the House of Delegates a report detailing the actions taken by the division in the preceding calendar year.
§33-2-17. Authority of office of Consumer Advocacy; retroactive effect of authority prohibited.

(a) In addition to the authority established under the rules promulgated by the Director, the office of Consumer Advocacy is authorized to:
(1) Institute, intervene in, or otherwise participate in, as an advocate for the public interest and the interests of Insurance Consumers, proceedings in state and federal courts, before administrative agencies, or before the health care cost review authority, concerning applications or proceedings before the health care cost review authority or the review of any act, failure to act, or order of the health care cost review authority;
(2) At the request of one or more policyholders, or whenever the public interest is served, to advocate the interests of those policyholders in proceedings arising out of any filing made with the Insurance Commissioner by any insurance company or relating to any complaint alleging an unfair or deceptive act or practice in the business of insurance;
(3) Institute, intervene in, or otherwise participate in, as an advocate for the public interest and the interests of Insurance Consumers, proceedings in state and federal courts, before administrative agencies, or before the Insurance Commissioner, concerning applications or proceedings before the Commissioner or the review of any act, failure to act, or order of the Insurance Commissioner;
(4) Review and compile information, data and studies of the reasonable and customary rate schedules of health care providers, and health insurers for the purposes of reviewing, establishing, investigating, or supporting any policy regarding health care provider or insurance rates;
(5) Exercise all the same rights and powers regarding issuance of subpoenas, examination and cross-examination of witnesses, presentation of evidence, rights of appeal and other matters as any party in interest appearing before the Insurance Commissioner, or the health care cost review authority, or a court;
(6) Hire consultants, experts, lawyers, actuaries, economists, statisticians, accountants, clerks, stenographers, support staff, assistants, and other personnel necessary to carry out the provisions of this section and sections sixteen and eighteen of this article, which personnel shall be paid from special revenue funds appropriated for the use of the office;
(7) Contract for the services of technically qualified persons in the area of insurance matters to assist in the preparation and presentation of matters before the courts, the Insurance Commissioner, administrative agencies, or the health care cost review authority, which persons shall be paid from special revenue funds appropriated for the use of the office;
(8) Make recommendations to the Legislature concerning legislation to assist the office in the performance of its duties;
(9) Communicate and exchange data and information with other federal or state agencies, divisions, departments, or officers, and with other interested parties including, but not limited to, health care providers, insurance companies, consumers or other interested parties; and
(10) Perform other duties to effect the purposes of the office.
(b) The provisions of this section do not apply to any filing made by an insurance company, or act or order performed or issued by the Commissioner, or complaint filed by a policyholder with the Commissioner prior to the thirtieth day of June, one thousand nine hundred ninety-one. All proceedings and orders in connection with these prior matters shall be governed by the law in effect at the time of the filing, or performance or issuance of the act or order.
(c) The scope of authority granted under this section and section sixteen of this article is restricted to matters related to health care costs and health insurance policies, subscriber contracts issued by organizations under article twenty-four of this chapter, health care corporations under article twenty-five of this chapter, health maintenance organizations under article twenty-five-a of this chapter, contracts supplemental to health insurance policies, and other matters related to health insurance issues identified by rules of the commissioner promulgated under section one of this article and chapter twenty-nine-a of this code.
§33-2-18. Funding.

The office of Consumer Advocacy shall be funded in an amount to be appropriated by the Legislature from special revenue funds completely separate and apart from all other divisions and offices of the Insurance Commission.
(a) Initial funding for the office of the Consumer Advocate shall be provided by the Insurance Commissioner from funds appropriated for the office of the Consumer Advocate by the Legislature. (b) The current Director of Consumer Advocacy or other appointee of the Commissioner shall continue in the position until the Governor appoints a new director under the provisions of section sixteen of this article. Following the initial fiscal year budget appropriation, the Director of the office of Consumer Advocacy shall be responsible for submitting subsequent requests for appropriations separate from that submitted on behalf of the Insurance Commission.
The director may employ persons and incur expenses as may be necessary in the discharge of his or her duties and shall fix the compensation of employees.




NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to make the office of Consumer Advocacy independent of the Insurance Commissioner.

Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from the present law, and underscoring indicates new language that would be added.

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